HL Deb 25 March 1980 vol 407 cc610-96

2.52 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 17 [Assisted places at independent schools]:

[Amendment No. 39 not moved.]

Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 18, line 10, at end insert— ("; and (c) the Secretary of State reports to Parliament on an annual basis details of—

  1. (i) the number and names of schools participating;
  2. (ii) the total number of pupils and the sex, age and geographical distribution of the intake into the scheme;
  3. (iii) the total cost of the scheme; and
  4. (iv) the details of the fees charged by each school and the average cost per pupil.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in the early hours of the morning of 12th March we discussed this matter on the Question that the clause stand part and no amendments to it have yet been discussed. Unfortunately, the clause now stands part of the Bill and we have this scheme, which is certainly abhorrent to me, and not only to my noble friends on this side of the House but to many other noble Lords in all parts of the House, particularly on the Cross-Benches. Also some of the noble friends of members of the Government expressed, during the Committee stage and on Second Reading, their reservations about this, including the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and the noble Lord, Lord Boyle, among others.

What this scheme does is to skim off the cream of our boys and girls at school, so far as that is possible, with the money available; but in so doing that, although the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said during the Committee stage that the scheme would not start until 1981, and £3 million would be allocated for it at that point, the total amount of money which is to be put into the scheme is in the area of £55 million. A great deal was said, and no doubt will be said in future, about how this money could be used to better effect in the maintained part of our education scheme.

What I am concerned about is that this puts an educational bomb into the State system. We still have a ferocious class consciousness and class system in our society. This is debilitating to the country and it affects our economy and our industrial effort. Education should erode class and social divisiveness, but what the assisted places scheme does, although I readily admit that at the moment it is in quite a small way, is to bolster all the things which we have rightly been trying to iron out of the education system.

One point that so much runs through this Bill is the opportunity given for parental choice and parental participation in the education system. But in bringing in this assisted places scheme we are to some degree going hack to the situation where parents and their children are put in a competitive situation as far as education is concerned. The sense of failure among those children who are not "lifted out" to get an assisted place can be very severe and we have the flavour of the old 11-plus. As has been pointed out before, in many ways this is much more iniquitous than a direct grant scheme because it is saying, strongly and specifically, that the maintained sector is not able to cope with children of high ability. This is quite outrageous, and I really believe that it is highly damaging to the maintained sector which everybody should be trying to build up.

One way of getting improvement in the education service, in the National Health Service and in many of our services, is through people who are articulate and are not afraid to state what they feel, and they should participate in the maintained sector. By doing this, one is not just creaming off the children, but undermining the voices of those very parents who could probably stand up and speak and bring a considerable influence to bear on increasing the quality of the State system.

The amendment is directed to people having the right to know the facts of the scheme. Until now we have known very little about it. In another place the Minister, Dr. Rhodes Boyson, the Parliamentary Secretary of State for Education, in reply to a Question for Written Answer on the number of school places for boys and girls which have been provisionally offered by private schools in each of the areas of England and Wales, replied that: direct grant grammar schools and independent secondary schools were invited by the Department's letter of 6th December to indicate, on a provisional basis and without commitment, whether they would be likely to be interested in joining the assisted places scheme and, if so, approximately how many assisted places annually they might offer". In the table which was given as part of his reply, it was shown that 371 schools have so far responded. I think I am right in saying that is about a third of those who were invited to participate; and I should be grateful if the noble Baroness, Lady Young, could perhaps tell us whether a more up-to-date figure is now available. As to the table which sets out the number of schools, there are already considerable grounds for concern in the variations of the schools responding. For example, 136 schools in the South-East have responded; in the East Midlands 15 have offered places, and in Wales 15 have offered places. In between there is a whole range of numbers, but the South-East is very much in the lead.

We are asking—I think, quite reasonably—that there should be included in the Bill the requirement for an annual report to be given by the Secretary of State to Parliament, giving the number and names of the schools participating, the total number of pupils, their sex, age, and the geographical distribution of the intake into the scheme, the total cost of the scheme, the details of the fees charged by each school and the average cost per pupil. I think this is very important if people are to have any idea of how the scheme is working, who it is affecting, how equitable the distribution is and whether it is working in the way that the Government expect it to work.

At the moment I think many of us feel that the whole thing is rather veiled. We do not know any of the relevant points that we need to know. This is not something to which one wants a once for all answer. I appreciate that it would be impossible for the Minister to give us these details today because the scheme is not under way yet, but it is important that this information should be available so that the parents are aware of it and schools are aware of it. It seems to me that this is an amendment which should be supported by all sides of the House because it is asking for information on an annual basis to which I believe Parliament, the schools and the parents are entitled. My Lords, I beg to move.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, we on these Benches are as deeply opposed to the assisted places scheme as the other noble Lords whom the noble Baroness mentioned. I propose to take the view on this and the following amendments that we should accept the decision of the House to let this scheme go through, just as the Government have accepted the decision of the House about transport charges. I would not want to follow the noble Baroness in what she said at the beginning of her speech which appeared to be attacking the scheme altogether, which I would gladly follow, but I think it is inappropriate at this stage. We on these Benches will look at these amendments on their merits, as to whether they make the working of this scheme, which we dislike so much, more or less effective.


My Lords, I crave your indulgence; being such a new Member I can only speak from personal experience. I have in mind the faces of three children. A very short time ago I was asked to award prizes to spastic children, and they were absolutely amazing in what they had achieved. I shall never forget the faces of all those children, but particularly the face of the winner. Secondly, I should like to speak about a school that I knew well. It was not perhaps a very intellectual school but it had taken the precaution of having a farm attached to it. I remember that there was a sort of Victor Ludorem for the pupil who did the best; this particular pupil had done especially well in lambing, and he was brilliant at it. Thirdly, I remember the face of a child whose father was an electrician and formed a small business of his own. He happened to have a very brilliant son, and he entered him for the scholarship for Eton from a little remote village. I believe there were in fact 16 places, and it needed this humble and shy man to go with his wife for the interview. This boy, in fact, missed getting a place by one mark. This was a little while ago when schools were still independent, and they put him in for a school which was perhaps more ancient than Eton, an ancient grammar school. He got in and he has done brilliantly. In the intervening time, this child would not have had that opportunity. I know I have diversified a little with my first two children, but their faces are so vivid in my mind. I believe that we are thinking not only about the brilliant children, we are thinking about the others as well. I crave your Lordships' indulgence because I know this afternoon we are speaking about assisted places; this is what I wanted to say, that the brilliant child a few years ago would not have had the chance he has and I hope that in the future another such child will have.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said that he and his colleagues were going to consider the amendments on their merits. I would particularly commend this amendment to him, because whatever view any of us might hold of the merits of the assisted places scheme it must surely be desirable that we should be properly informed about how it works. It may be that some noble Lords will be proved right and some proved wrong, but it will be difficult to ascertain that unless Parliament does know what is happening. It is a good general principle when you are spending public money—and in the end it is going to be quite a lot of public money—that Parliament should know whether on any assumptions you are getting value for money. Moreover, the Act requires that the assisted places should be equitably distributed both with regard to different regions of the country and with regard to the sex of the pupils. What we are asking here is that we shall have an annual report from which we can judge whether these intentions in the Act are or are not being fulfilled.

I feel here again that this really is an amendment that the Government, without any loss of face, could accept. This amendment does not by itself challenge the assisted places scheme. We have made it plain enough from these Benches that we dislike the scheme, but all we are asking in this amendment is that as the scheme proceeds Parliament should know from year to year how it is being administered, whether the requirements of the Act as to equitable distribution are being met, and generally how has the whole thing worked out. I hope the noble Baroness the Minister of State will see her way to accepting this amendment.


My Lords I feel a little doubtful about the amendment, because it only asks about numbers and finance. If I were to go completely along with the speech the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, has made, I would want to know how the children were doing, because that is where the good value comes in. My view is the opposite to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk; I do not think this scheme of assisted places is iniquitous, because I think the brilliant child does need education of a particularly high grade. There- fore, I am broadly in sympathy with what my noble friends are doing here. I would fear that this type of amendment, if this was just an annual report giving the number of places and the cost, might help to perpetuate a running campaign of hostility against the scheme which noble Lords opposite feel. I think that would be very damaging. I am interested to see this scheme succeed. I do not feel that it has the implication that comprehensive schools in the State system are inadequate; it is simply an additional complement to the State system to deal with the exceptional child.

When noble Lords opposite feel that this scheme is unfair in that it is giving certain children an advantage, one does have to look at it the other way round. The brilliant child does need something extra in education to what other children need. The brilliant children need extra attention from particularly high powered teachers; they need the extra challenge which they will get in those circumstances, which they will not get normally in a system which has to cater for a much broader range of intellect.

Therefore, in looking at this matter, one must think about the children who have these special talents. They should have the opportunity to develop them to the full, both in their own interests and in the interests of the whole community. Goodness knows! we want them to go through life with their special qualifications and to use their great gifts to the benefit of the whole community. Therefore, it is with those type of feelings at the back of my mind that I say that I am not entirely convinced of to what purpose this amendment would be put if it were placed on the statute book. I am not sure whether it would really be looking at how these children were getting on and whether they were making good progress or simply providing a peg to enable people to have another crack at a system that noble Lords opposite do not like. I shall listen with interest to what my noble friend says. However, I shall look very closely at the amendment before I agree to it.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, I think that I made it perfectly clear during the Second Reading debate that I consider this clause to be the worst part of a very bad Bill. However, like the noble Vis- count, Lord Simon, we have accepted what the House has done as regards the clause as a whole. Although this clause was passed in Committee, we do not know how the scheme will work. We have been told very little about it, and what little we have been told has been rather contradictory.

In the first place, £100 million was mentioned; then it was £50 million; and now we have been told that in the first year, which starts in 1981, the cost will be £3 million. We want to know not only what the scheme will cost, but how many children it will involve and how many children will go to each of the participating schools. What will it mean to the comprehensives and in some cases the local authority grammar schools? How many children is it anticipated will be creamed off from those schools?

What has not been mentioned here this afternoon, but which is very germane to the amendment, is the rumour—I do not know whether it is a fact or a rumour—that some report has been sitting in the offices of the Department of Education and Science which for some reason or other will not be published and made known by the Department until June. If rumour is true, that report shows that bright children do as well, if not better, in the comprehensive schools as they do in selective schools. I hope that this afternoon the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will tell us whether that is true. Is there such a report sitting in the Department of Education and Science? What does that report say? If there is such a report, it is very germane to this particular amendment. All that we are asking for is information. Your Lordships' House has given this Bill a Second Reading and in Committee your Lordships agreed that the clause stand part of the Bill. However, I suggest that we do not know very much about this scheme and this afternoon I ask for more information.


My Lords, as has been said by my noble friend Lord Simon we shall consider each amendment on its merits and not on the basis of whether we are in favour or against the system, to which we have made quite clear we are opposed. We think that if the deed has to be done it should be done well. This proposal improves the scheme and certainly lets people know whether they are getting value for money and helps them to know whether the scheme is working effectively and properly. It would be interesting to see the details of the fees charged and how the average cost per pupil compares with the maintained sector. There were arguments during the introduction of the direct grant system, that, in fact, direct grant places cost less per head, according to one set of statistics, than the cost of places in maintained schools. That is the type of information that everyone should want to have and should be glad to receive, whatever their political views may be about the scheme.

I should like to take up one point with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. I see the merits of the point coming, as I do, from an area where there is a very large number of excellent direct grant schools which have now become independent. The noble Baroness said that if we did not have the scheme it would bring back into the maintained sector the articulate concerned parent. That is very true, but is that not an argument that leads us inevitably to the point that, if we abolished the private sector entirely it would bring the top 5 per cent. who are probably the most interested of all in the future of the education of their children, into the maintained system. I do not know whether that is an argument that the Labour Benches would pursue as regards the abolition or otherwise of the private sector. However, it logically follows that, if one takes that view about that section, then the private sector itself is a diminution or a dilution of the effectiveness of the maintained system. Generally speaking, if the system is to be introduced we think that this would assist people to know what they are getting and what the country will have to pay for.


My Lords, Sections 51 and 52 of the 1944 Education Act—which was written when Britain historically said that never again would we have such inadequate educational opportunities for our people—said that it should be seen that children who had education were able to take the advantages thereof. In a nutshell, Clause 17 talks about awards and grants to the assisted places at independent schools.

I have had experience of children who are able and quite brilliant, but who feel inadequate because their clothing, their maintenance, their pocket money, their rugby kit and so on, are not equal to that of children at independent schools. If noble Lords think that that is not something that hurts the heart of a child, I beg them to think again. It is important that if those "aces" are put into those independent schools where they will have the opportunity of building up their stature, their muscles and the adequacy of their minds, we should ensure that they are properly dressed, have adequate boots, shoes, gear and kit to enter the gymnasium, or use the football and the rugby fields. That is of paramount importance to a child. Those are the matters that he confesses at home to his mother and to his father when given the opportunity. I beg noble Lords to think again about this matter. It was enacted in the 1944 Act that local authorities should ensure that a child has the physical and mental equipment to fit into the milieu of that type of school.


My Lords, earlier in the debate I made the point that it ought to be unnecessary at any stage for anyone on either side of the House to assume that his side of the House had a prerogative in wanting to see the education system work and in wanting to see the children of this country have an even brighter future. It is surely unnecessary to introduce that remark or invitation at this stage. A Report stage is always difficult because it leads people to make Second Reading speeches about matters which are really concerned with the clauses to be inserted. As regards this clause, that gives me an opportunity to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, whether she is now able to answer, in the context of this clause, the question that I put to her on the redistribution of the amount of money available for the provision of education in this country from the public to the private or semi-private sector; and whether she can tell me if the £50 million, of which we have spoken, or indeed the £3 million for the one year of which we have spoken, is in addition to the £60 million-plus already being devoted from the public purse to the support of private education.

3.20 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, we all listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, which was, of course, a Second Reading speech, on the assisted places scheme. I do not wish to rehearse all the arguments that we have already heard—not only at Second Reading but also on Committee—a third time round on Report. I should simply like to make three points about the assisted places scheme. The first is that it is intended to replace the old direct grant schools scheme. Whatever the feelings of the House may be about the assisted places scheme—and I have every reason to suppose that a majority of your Lordships support it—when the old direct grant scheme was phased out by the former Labour Government (and I remember the debate well) there were very few noble Lords who did not express their very great regret at the ending of the direct grant schools which had made such a notable contribution to the educational system of this country.

Secondly, the two systems—the direct grant school system and the maintained system—lived side by side very happily for many years. It is extraordinary to talk about creaming off from the maintained system and the ending of the good relationships because we are trying to reintroduce the scheme in a better form without some of the disadvantages that the direct grant schools system had. I was not absolutely sure of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, but if he was implying that only the top 5 per cent. who send their children to independent schools care about their children's education, I would regret that. I think that most parents care very greatly about their children's education.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Baroness, I certainly was not implying that. I was saying that if one advances the argument, as the noble Baroness did, that the parents who formerly sent their children to direct grant schools and who now send them to these schools would be creamed off as the most concerned parents, then it should be remembered that parents in the private sector too, of course, are among the most concerned parents.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am glad to have that point cleared up. The point I want to make is that there are thousands of parents who send their children to the maintained system who care deeply. The provisions in the Bill that we are making both on school governors and on the right of parents to express a choice and the appeal system, which has been so greatly criticised by noble Lords, opposite, are designed to give some of the opportunities to parents who send their children to maintained schools that are currently enjoyed only by those who can afford to send their children to independent schools. It is very important to see the assisted places scheme in relation to other proposals. I have been asked for a great deal of information, and I shall give all the information I can this afternoon.

I turn to the amendment before us. An identical amendment to this was, of course, debated in another place, and the Government believe that it is unnecessary. The Secretary of State is already under an obligation under Section 5 of the Education Act 1944 to: make to Parliament an annual report giving an account of the exercise and performance of the powers and duties conferred and imposed upon him by this Act". That provision applies to this Bill by virtue of Clause 38(3), which provides that this Bill, when it is enacted, is to be construed as one with the Education Act 1944. I believe that this is sufficient safeguard; we have shown already, I believe, that we are willing to be completely open about all aspects of the scheme, and we shall recognise the perfectly valid interest of Members of both Houses in this new scheme when preparing the Secretary of State's annual report to Parliament. Of course, noble Lords can also put questions about the scheme.

I shall give the most up-to-date figures that I have on the scheme. The latest figure for the schools that have expressed an interest in participating is 468. Those figures break down into 120 former direct grant grammar schools, 338 independent schools, one other direct school and nine maintained schools, making a total of 468. In fact, all independent secondary and direct grant schools were sent a letter on 6th December; no attempt was made to select suitable schools at this stage. The letter went to all secondary schools, whether or not they had sixth forms, and the response, which has been about 45 per cent., we believe is very satisfactory in this context.

As for the numbers of places offered—and these are provisional figures and are the latest I have—for the total of boys it is 5,894; for girls, 5,135; for mixed schools, 1,928. Therefore, noble Lords will see that the offers we have are far more than the places we could consider and, quite interestingly, there is almost an even balance as between boys and girls. It is our intention that there should be equal numbers of places for boys and for girls, and that there should be a proper geographical spread of these places.

On the costs of the scheme and how expensive it would be, I would refer those noble Lords who are interested in this matter to the reply given by my honourable friend Dr. Boyson in another place on 12th February 1980 at column 1487 of the Official Report, when he spoke about the comparative costs of the maintained schools and the independent schools. He said: The average recoupment costs for children between the ages of 11 and 16 as between one county and another when real money has to go over and when counties become realistic…is £675. At 16-plus the cost is £1,155. The figures for six ex-direct grant schools in Manchester average £841". We have, of course, published in full the income scales that will apply. I shall give any noble Lords who are interested the references in Hansard; it would take too long to read out all the details of the scheme this afternoon. I hope I have indicated that we are completely open about our proposals. We believe that they will stand up to public examination. We believe that there will be an opportunity for review of the scheme on this annual report, and I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, will she answer my question about the report which, according to reports in newspapers, is at the Department of Education and Science and which is not to be published before June? Will she say whether or not the reports in newspapers are correct when they say that, in fact, this report says that bright children do as well, if not better, in comprehensive schools as in selective schools?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the particular question is, of course, totally irrelevant to the amendment before us. However, I assume as the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, has not named the report to which she is referring, that she is referring to the report of the National Children's Bureau. I would refer her to the answer that my right honourable and learned friend gave in another place on 18th March, at column 164 of the Official Report, in which he said: There is no truth whatsoever in the suggestion that I have withheld publication of this report by the National Children's Bureau. This research was carried out by the NCB and it is for it to publish the report". The answer continues but I shall not quote the rest.


My Lords, during the Second Reading debate the noble Baroness promised that she would give me an answer to the specific question which I have again asked today. Yet again she seems not to have answered it.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I am not at all clear what figures the noble Lord, Lord Parry, wants. We have given the cost, assuming that the assisted places scheme starts in September 1981, of £3.5 million. I gave him the current cost of sixth-form pupils in direct grant schools, and all these are figures which are known. I am not clear what other figure he wishes to have which is relevant to the assisted places scheme.


My Lords, perhaps the House will forgive me for reminding the noble Baroness of the specific question I asked. It was whether the overall cost, however assessed—as has been said, the assessment has varied, but the most constant figure is £50 million—or, if you like, the related cost of £3 million in the first year of operation is additional to the sum of money which both she and I know is at present, rightly and properly, spent within the constitution on assisted places.

Baroness YOUNG

The amount that has been put into the financial memorandum at the start of the Bill—£3½million in September 1981—and which we have accepted, will, when the scheme is in full operation, build up to £50 million, but this will not be until about 1989. The sum is in addition to the discretionary award which local authorities can now pay to send children to independent schools where they regard that as appropriate.


My Lords, I hate to question the noble Baroness again, but I think it is important. I would like to know whether, if children wanting these places do not have adequate facilities at home to take part in gymnastics and games at the same standard as those from better-off places, there are opportunities and grants which will be available as they were under the 1944 Education Act?


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, we are not at the Committee stage now.


My Lords, whether we are not at the Committee stage, an answer to the question is courteously requested.


My Lords, one is only allowed to speak once on the Report stage.


My Lords, the noble Baroness has said that the report of the National Children's Bureau is a matter for them to publish, but, irrespective of that point, will the noble Baroness confirm that the statement made by my noble friend Baroness Bacon is in that report, because travelling to the House today I heard on Radio 4 that very statement which was made by my noble friend?


My Lords, I think that when the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, comes to read the report of the National Children's Bureau he will find that the research concerned finished in 1974 or 1975, I am not quite sure which, while the direct grant schools were still in operation and before the comprehensive schools had really got under way and when their second year sixth forms were virtually grammar school sixth forms. The figures he is quoting or misquoting—I would not know—will when they are published need a great deal of interpretation and examination in a fairly expert way.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend this question? I sympathise with the noble Lords who want full information about the working of the assisted places schemes. I believe also that my noble friend is right that the place in which to do that is in the annual review of the Secretary of State. But I think that what we want is an assurance that it will not be a perfunctory paragraph about this scheme. It is a new scheme, people are very interested in it. Can we have an assurance that the noble Baroness will ask the Secretary of State to give us full details, at any rate in the early years?


My Lords, the question I wish to ask has relevance to what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has just said. If I understand it properly, this clause does not apply to Scotland and if the Scotland Act had not been repealed I could be accused of asking a "West Lothian" type of question and interfering in English education while the English could not do anything about Scots education. My reason for asking the question is that I was rather surprised when the Minister said that the giving of information would be in relation to this general report which the Secretary of State makes. I therefore wonder exactly what was meant when we look at subsection (6) of the clause. This deals with the making of regulations and includes in paragraph (d) an obligation on the authorities concerned to furnish information to the Secretary of State. This would seem to be in addition to what is being done in these other Acts.

What is the sort of information which is referred to which is intended to be obtained, particularly from these regulations? To what extent do the items covered in the amendment proposed by my noble friends fall within this information sought under the regulations?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I think we should remind ourselves that we are on Report and that this is not the Committee stage of the Bill.

Several Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I have, I hope, already given an assurance to my noble friend Viscount Eccles and to the House that when the Secretary of State's annual review of the education service is presented to Parliament there will be full information about the working of the scheme and the information that is required. In the meantime, there is nothing to prevent any noble Lord asking questions about it and seeking the information that he or she requires. I shall do my best to answer the other questions that have been asked.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, about the expenditure on equipment for pupils. Under Clause 18, the Secretary of State may make grants for clothing, et cetera. Of course, local education authorities will also be free to help by using their general powers under Section 81 of the 1944 Act. That is precisely to avoid the kind of situation that he has described.

So far as the regulating powers are concerned, the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, under subsection (6) is, I believe, quite clear. There will have to be various regulations which prescribe the particular conditions that are set down. Of course, we shall be writing to the local education authorities notifying them and working with them on the schools that are selected for the scheme, the methods of selection and so on within their area. There will obviously be information which they will want to give us and we shall want from them. These are all matters that are covered in regulations, and the Bill makes that quite clear, I believe.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, in view of the assurance which the Minister has given in reply to both the question I raised and the amendment moved, and in view also of her answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, who was pursuing the same path, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. 3.37 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 41: Page 18, line 15, after ("scheme") insert ("after the completion of a satisfactory report on a participating school by Her Majesty's Inspectors").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, together with Amendments Nos. 44 and 47, are concerned with the maintenance of standards at schools at which assisted places are to be taken up. Amendment No. 41 requires in the first place that it should be a condition of becoming a participating school that there should be a satisfactory report on it from Her Majesty's Inspectors. Amendment No. 44 prescribes the exclusion of a school on which an unsatisfactory report has been received, and Amendment No. 47 gives definition to the term "standards" which appears in the relevant schedule.

I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, is no longer with us because I am encouraged, in moving this amendment, by something he said on the last one. He argued in favour of the assisted places scheme on the ground that maintained schools were all very well for many children but that there were gifted children who required exceptionally high quality teachers and a special kind of school. I do not accept that argument at all, but if the assisted places scheme is going to be justified on the ground these schools at which assisted places will be taken up are of an exceptionally high quality, we are entitled to ask for some verification of it.

One understands, of course, that assisted places would not be taken up at, say, the kind of school attended by H. G. Wells's hero, Mr. Polly, of whom it was said that at that school the studies of French and bookkeeping were pursued but never effectively overtaken. What is asked of these schools is something far more than that; that they should be so exceptional that they can give to the exceptionally gifted child something it cannot obtain elsewhere.

At the outset of our argument on this matter, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, expressed doubt as to whether there were all that number of such superlative schools to be found anywhere. Let us put it to the test. What we are suggesting in these amendments is that a school at which assisted places are to be provided should be subject in the first instance to reports by Her Majesty's Inspectors; that they should not remain on the list of participating schools if there is an unsatisfactory report, and that the reference to standards in the schedule should be standards as defined by Her Majesty's Inspectorate.

I do not know what the Minister will be able to say today about the state of the inspection of schools outside the maintained system. It certainly was the original intention that such schools should be inspected, and that indeed final registration of the school should depend on a satisfactory report, but I am not sure how far that has worked out in practice. Is the noble Baroness perhaps going to tell us that this amendment would be impossible because there are not the resources in the Inspectorate? If that is so, then might it not be better to leave over the assisted places scheme until we can be sure of adequate reporting? Contrarywise, if it is practically possible for the Inspectorate to do the work we are imposing on them in these amendments, surely it should be done. I beg to move.


My Lords, it would be impertinent to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, is unaware of Section 77 of the Education Act 1944 whereby Her Majesty's Inspectorate have a bounden duty to inspect all schools. As he knows far better than 1, this scheme has been going on for many years. In the light of this fact, purely on the ground of necessity I cannot see, as the information is already with the Secretary of State for Education, the point of this amendment, and what it would contribute to the Bill.


My Lords, I think that this amendment should be looked at carefully. We are not dealing with the ordinary issue of inspection of independent schools or of any schools to see whether it is providing satisfactory education. We are dealing here with the issue of whether a particular school is capable of fully stretching a child who is certainly in the top 2 per cent. of ability, probably even more than that, in the top 1 per cent. This is a very special job. I gather that about 400 schools have offered to co-operate. The idea that there are 400 schools capable of fully stretching these children I would totally reject as not a practical proposition.

I have no doubt that under the clause there are circumstances whereby the Secretary of State can require whatever information he thinks necessary from schools before he enters into an agreement with them. Whether an actual inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate is necessary is for him to decide, but I would hope he would take great care to ensure that the schools invited to participate would be such schools as could fully educate children who have a very high level of ability and who need special provision.

3.44 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I hope that I can give the House the assurances that are required on all the points that have been raised over this amendment. I understood that the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, was also speaking to Amendments Nos. 44 and 47. En selecting schools for the scheme, the Secretary of State will certainly seek and have regard to the advice of Her Majesty's Inspectorate. But in general we should be able to rely on the detailed information given by schools in support of their applications and on what Her Majesty's Inspectorate know of them already.

Schools will be required to provide detailed information on such matters as their sixth form provision, provision for 0-level and A-level examinations, and other academic courses, so that we shall know what they can offer. We therefore believe that it will neither be necessary nor practicable to arrange for Her Majesty's Inspectorate to carry out an inspection and render a report on every school with which it is proposed to make an agreement. Many schools are already well-known to the Inspectorate and this would be a misuse of Inspectorate manpower and a time-consuming and delaying task. As I have said, the advice of the Inspectorate will be taken and will be based on a special visit where in their judgment this is necessary. May I say as well that all independent schools are inspected before final registration, so that I think this is an important safeguard. Final registration always depends on a satisfactory report, except as provided under Clause 34 of the Bill.

I think therefore that it will be recognised that just as we wish the scheme to succeed—and after all we have no possible interest in having unsatisfactory schools in the scheme—if there is one thing we shall be able to measure it is the results. If the results are unsatisfactory we shall know at once if the school is unsatisfactory, because of course the scheme can be measured in terms of money that is put in and the qualifications that the children get at the end. As we all know about qualifications, they measure not only those taking the examination but those who are teaching for the examinations. So I think we have in a real sense a measure which we would all accept is important.

On the further amendments I think it would be difficult, for example, on Amendment No. 44, to define what exactly is meant by an unsatisfactory report on the school. It presumably applies to the general conduct or achievement of the school. But what about a critical report of a particular member of the staff who might leave, and then the school continues to be all right? I do not think that we could accept an amendment that is couched in those terms. On Amendment No. 47, the Secretary of State will always take the advice on whether or not a school has fallen below the standards considered appropriate for participation in the scheme, and he must have power to terminate a school's agreement if its standards fall off.

In the last analysis the Secretary of State must always act on his own judgment and not be bound to accept the advice of any of the officials; and this must be the way that public life works. The Secretary of State makes the agreement and must take the responsibility for deciding to terminate it. But it seems to me that the real assurance is the point I made earlier: we wish the scheme to be a success. If it is not a success then this would measure the schools as well as the pupils, and I suggest that those of us who support the scheme have an interest—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, does—in ensuring that the schools that are chosen can in fact do for the children what we would all like.


My Lords. I am not altogether reassured by that. The noble Baroness tells us that we shall find out after the children have been to the school whether the school was all right or not, but it would be rather late in the day. I would not have pressed this so much were it not for the point argued by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. We are not being asked to list schools as reasonably all right. These are supposed to be schools that have the superlative quality of doing justice by the top 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of the population measured by intelligence. Personally I think that all this stuff about measuring intelligence and top 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. is largely a load of rubbish, but the trouble is that it is on this load of rubbish that a great deal of this scheme depends. It really ought to live up to its own convictions. I am afraid that I must ask my noble friends to press this amendment.

Viscount ECCLES

My Lords, may I just say one word. I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Alexander of Potter-hill. In my opinion this scheme is needed not only for people who can be stretched to the very full but for those children, for instance, who cannot get good mathematics teaching. I suppose they will be selected to go to direct schools which have received this grant and where there is good mathematics teaching. We all know that in a great many of the secondary schools today you cannot get to A-level in maths. Therefore if the child appears to have a good chance to get to A-level in maths I hope that the Minister will say that that will be a reason for finding a school under this scheme.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, before the Question is put, may I ask the noble Baroness to tell us what she has in mind as to how the scheme will work in these sort of circumstances? Suppose a school is chosen, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said, because there is a very brilliant young mathematician and this is a school with very good mathematics teaching. But suppose the head mathematics teacher, who is the boss of the whole thing, leaves that school. It may be difficult to find an equally good teacher to take his place. What, then, is the position in relation to the child who is at that school? My second question is the reverse of that coin: what happens to the pupil who has been sent to one of these schools and who, half way through his course, is found by the school not to be keeping up to the mark? Will he be removed from that school and put back into the maintained system?

Baroness BACON

My Lords, it is assumed that all these 464 schools cater for children of high academic ability. It may be that among those schools there are some of that kind, but surely a lot of them do not cater for children of high academic ability but for the children of parents who can afford to pay the fees.

Baroness YOUNG

By the leave of the House, my Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Eccles for the point he made. Clearly, the assisted places scheme would be valuable in circumstances where, for one reason or another, a particular course was not available in the maintained system, and we have always accepted that this is one reason for the assisted places scheme. I would say to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that clearly a school would not be chosen just because there was one good teacher. I hope I have said enough to indicate that, in order to be registered, it would have to be a school inspected by the inspectors; that it would need to have a full range of courses on offer, including a sixth form; that it would need to have enough pupils in the sixth form courses so there would be the correct stimulus for them; and that it would need to have a whole range of academic attributes before it would be considered. As for a pupil who is unable for one reason or another to keep up, clearly the scheme must be flexible as regards arrangements; if the child is unhappy at a particular school, no one would wish the child to continue at that school. This must be a matter which can be dealt with by the head of the school and the parents in the way that is regarded appropriate.

I would remind the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, that I gave the figures of the numbers of schools that had indicated an interest. Please do not interpret that as meaning the numbers of schools that will be selected, because we have not yet chosen those numbers of schools. The House asked for the information we had at the present time, and that is the total numbers of schools that have expressed an interest. As I have already indicated to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, we shall be choosing schools of an academic character and we are particularly interested in those schools that were former direct grant schools that have now gone independent. I think everyone will have recognised that they were academic schools. That is the characteristic we are looking for and I do not think it contributes to the argument to make denigrating remarks about parents who may choose to pay to send their children to one of these

schools. That does not help the scheme, the parents or the children.

3.54 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 41) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 142.

Airedale, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Phillips, B.
Allen of Fallowfield, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Amherst, E. Gosford, E. Rochester, L.
Amulree, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Ardwick, L. Hale, L. Sainsbury, L.
Aylestone, L. Henderson, L. Seear, B.
Bacon, B. Hughes, L. Shinwell, L.
Banks, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Simon, V.
Birk, B. Jacques, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Blease, L. [Teller.] Janner, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Jeger, B. Stone, L.
Bowden, L. Kirkhill, L. Strabolgi, L.
Brimelow, L. Leatherland, L. Strauss, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Lee of Newton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Byers, L. Leonard, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Chitnis, L. Listowel, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Underhill, L.
Collison, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. McNair, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Maybray-King, L. Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]
David, B. Milford, L. White, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Noel-Baker, L. Wigoder, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Northfield, L. Willis, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Oram, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Gaitskell, B. Paget of Northampton, L. Winstanley, L.
Galpern, L. Parry, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Gardiner, L. Peart, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Gladwyn, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Denham, L. [Teller.] Hayter, L.
Alexander of Potterhill, L. Derwent, L. Hill of Luton, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Drumalbyn, L. Hives, L.
Allerton, L. Dundee, E. Hylton, L.
Alport, L. Dundonald, E. Hylton-Foster, B.
Amory, V. Ebbisham, L. Ilchester, E.
Ampthill, L. Eccles, V. James of Risholme, L.
Armstrong, L. Effingham, E. Jessel, L.
Balerno, L. Ellenborough, L. Kimberley, E.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Kinloss, Ly.
Barnby, L. Elton, L. Kinnaird, L.
Bellwin, L. Enniskillen, E. Kintore, E.
Belstead, L. Evans of Hungershall, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Berkeley, B. Faithfull, B. Long, V.
Bolton, L. Falkland, V. Loudoun, C.
Brookeborough, V. Ferrers, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Caccia, L. Forester, L. Lyell, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Fortescue, E. McFadzean, L.
Chesham, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Clancarty, E. Gage, V. Macleod of Borve, B.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Galloway, E. MacLeod of Fuinary, L.
Clitheroe, L. Glasgow, E. Mancroft, L.
Clwyd, L. Gore-Booth, L. Mansfield, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Gormanston, V. Margadale, L.
Cottesloe, L. Gowrie, E. Marley, L.
Cranbrook, E. Gridley, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Middleton, L.
Daventry, V. Halsbury, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Davidson, V. Hanworth, V. Morris, L.
de Clifford, L. Harvington, L. Mountgarret, V.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. St. Davids, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Moyne, L. St. Just, L. Strathspey, L.
Netherthorpe, L. Saint Oswald, L. Swansea, L.
Newall, L. Saltoun, Ly. Swinton, E.
Northchurch, B. Sandford, L. Tranmire, L.
Nugent of Guildford, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.] Trenchard, V.
O'Brien of Lothbury, L. Selkirk, E. Trumpington, B.
O'Neill of the Maine, L. Sempill, Ly. Tweedsmuir, L.
Orr-Ewing, L. Sharples, B. Vaizey, L.
Penrhyn, L. Sligo, M. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Porritt, L. Smith, L. Vickers, B.
Reigate, L. Snow, L. Vivian, L.
Renton, L. Somers, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Ridley, V. Spens, L. Westbury, L.
Roberthall, L. Stamp, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Rochdale, V. Strathcarron, L. Wolverton, L.
Romney, E. Strathclyde, L. Young, B.
St. Aldwyn, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.3 p.m.

Baroness BACON moved Amendment No. 42: Page 18, line 19, at end insert ("and of ensuring that no pupil will have to travel further than 20 miles").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment, which would ensure that no pupil who is selected for one of the assisted places will have to travel more than 20 miles. I appreciate the point made by the noble Baroness towards the end of the discussion on the last amendment when she said that although there are figures for schools that wish to participate in the scheme, these schools are not necessarily the schools which will participate or the schools that will be selected. It may be that these figures will vary slightly, but the latest information we have about geographical distribution was given in reply to a Question for Written Answer in another place on 4th February, as reported at columns 81 and 82 of the Official Report. Those figures show that the different regions of the country vary considerably in regard to the number of schools that wish to participate in the scheme. For example, in the East Midlands 15 schools have applied; in Wales, too, 15 have applied; in Northern England 19 have applied; but in the North West of England the figure was 50, and in the South East 136.

As I say. I appreciate that these figures might not represent the proportions of the schools that will be selected. Nevertheless, the figures show that it seems inevitable that if there is to be a proper geographical distribution, as the noble Baroness im- plied, in some areas some children will have to travel a long way. I should like to ask what are the catchment areas to be? Is there to be any limit whatsoever on the number of miles which children will have to travel? More importantly, I should like to know who is to pay for the transport, because at the moment there is an anomalous position, in that the local authority will have no say whatsoever in the numbers of children who will be selected for the assisted places scheme. The local authority will be completely out of the matter. There will be applications from parents of children, and these applications will be accepted, or otherwise dealt with, by the schools concerned. Therefore, the local authorities will have no say whatsoever in the numbers of children going to the schools, nor in the distances to be covered, yet it appears that, according to law, the local authorities are responsible for the transporting of the children from their homes to the schools which they are attending.

I see the noble Baroness shaking her head, but perhaps she could clear up the question of who will pay for the transporting of the children to the schools where the assisted places are offered. I should like to know from the noble Baroness what the position will be. Will there be any limit whatsoever to the number of miles to be travelled? Will there be any limit at all in regard to those schools to which the parents can apply for their children to attend? And there is the important question, who is going to pay for the transport? I beg to move.

The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (The Earl of Mansfield)

My Lords, I take this amendment to be a probing amendment, and I assume that the noble Baroness does not literally mean 20 miles, because the effect of a 20-mile limit would vary very considerably according to the locality and the means of public transport, if it exists. The noble Baroness put a number of questions, some of which I shall endeavour to answer, and others of which, as she will no doubt appreciate, can be answered only when the assisted places scheme comes into effect.

Schools offering assisted places will often have to serve wide areas. One expects that children who live in urban areas will, numerically speaking, be in the vast majority in this respect, simply because these days more people live in towns and conurbations than in the country. However, putting that to one side, children who live in rural areas and who attend these schools will have to have an increased expectation in regard to travelling, but one hopes that few assisted place holders will be involved in journeys of more than 20 miles or so, and that for the great majority the travelling distances will be considerably shorter.

The difficulty—and I think the noble Baroness touched upon this—will arise in those parts of the country where there are not likely to be a great number of assisted places because there will not be a very large number of schools that can offer them. It would be idle of me to pretend that there will be a completely even distribution of assisted places around the country. There is no doubt that in some rural areas—perhaps in the North-East of England, for example—there will be an under-provision of places if there are not schools within striking distance of the homes of the pupils who wish to go to them. However, I can say at this stage that it is hoped that the main urban concentrations will be adequately provided for, and that if choices are to be made, it is perhaps right that priority be given to these areas. After all, the old direct grant scheme tended to be concentrated upon such areas as the North-West, parts of the South-West, and I think the London area. While we hope to achieve nationally a more even distribution than this, it will never be completely satisfactory.

The noble Baroness put some questions to me as to who is going to pay, and for what. Clause 17 of the Bill imposes a number of mandatory duties upon the Secretary of State. Clause 18—this is in fact outside the scope of this amendment, but as there are no amendments down to Clause 18 perhaps I may be forgiven for touching on it—which refers to incidental expenses of pupils holding assisted places, contains the power given to the Secretary of State, when he comes to make his regulations, to make grants, in effect, in respect of this kind of expense; and there is no doubt about it that in certain instances travelling expenses will be covered under the regulations in Clause 18.

Perhaps I can postulate this rhetorical question: Would one expect a Government who are setting up a scheme like this to provide the places for children to receive this type of education and then, if their parents cannot afford to send them, not to provide the transport to get them there? Answering my own rhetorical question, the answer is, "Of course not". It would, would it not, make a nonsense of the whole scheme?—and that I am quite sure my right honourable and learned friend does not intend to do. But I cannot go into great detail, as I have said, at this stage, because we do not even know which schools are going to come forward, the areas in which they will be situated and the distances which will be involved. But the discretionary duty on the Secretary of State is in fact laid down in Clause 18. The local education authorities will not have to assist holders of assisted places. That is the point I want to drive home to the noble Baroness, if I may. What the Secretary of State will do, in fact, is to provide such arrangements as he thinks are necessary under Clause 18. I hope that helps the noble Baroness.

Viscount RIDLEY

My Lords, my noble friend mentioned the North-East of England. I think I am right in saying that if the noble Baroness's amendment were carried it would rule out vast chunks of the North-East of England which cannot be within reach of any of these schools. Therefore, it seems to me that the rural lobby, which was fairly effective at our Committee stage, should spring to the defence of the Government on this one, and I hope it will do so.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I come from the North-East of England, from a very rural area, and I, too, can assure the noble Baroness that many of the children there have no choice at all. The only school that the local children in my part of the world go to is a rather moderate comprehensive school without a sixth-form. Do you think that the Secretary of State, when he makes these regulations, might think of giving grants for weekly boarders? This would then give the children from rural areas a chance.


My Lords, I come from an area even more rural still than that of the noble Baroness, because I am just up the road. There are in fact in the North-East two schools which were direct grant schools, one Barnard Castle and the other Pocklington, and both of them have boarding houses. Boarding (in my view, probably rightly) is specifically excluded, but I think that can be got round because when the direct grant schools were abolished they all had quite successful appeals so that they could continue to carry on their specific historic task of helping poor boys. If this scheme goes through and they are accepted, they will not need all the money for that purpose; and I imagine that some of those schools (the ones I have anything to do with, certainly) would use some of that money to assist boys from very rural areas, like that of the noble Baroness and my own, to go there as at any rate weekly boarders. After all, under the old direct grant system the fees to day boys were graded on an incomes scale, but the boarding fees were not. So we should really be going back to something like that, except that the State would not be providing the boarding fee. I think we can get over this; but, of course, any limitation such as 20 miles must be probing, because it would be silly. A number of York parents in fact send their children to Pocklington by chartered bus every day. I think that is slightly more than 20 miles, so that will not do. At any rate, I think these difficulties of geography can be got over.


My Lords, I wonder whether we are moving on to Amendment No. 43. It looks very like it to me. If the Minister is making any reference to that under this amendment, perhaps she would make it clear whether or not the effect of the clause excludes boarding education from the scheme. I would be most grateful if that were clarified before we come to Amendment No. 43.


My Lords, I should like one thing cleared up. I thought that under the Bill local authorities were allowed to pay only for the day hoarding of these brilliant children, and not for their boarding as boarders for the week—only per day. Perhaps the Minister would answer that, because I do not think it is in the Bill that they should be allowed to pay for anything else but the day boarding.


My Lords, with the leave of the House I will answer, although I am conscious that I am jolly nearly trespassing on Amendment No. 43, and it is not my intention so to do. May I take up the point about boarding fees. If we look at Clause 17(3)(a), we see that in fact the scheme specifically rules out boarding fees, and that answers both my noble friend and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. But, like everything else in life, there are exceptions. It would I think be possible—in fact, I know it would be possible—that in a very small number of cases, if a child was in effect the recipient of a place under the scheme on a day basis and then either won or obtained a scholarship, or obtained the favour (if I may so term it) of other funds in order to, as it were, take up the boarding element of a boarding school, then there is no reason why that child should not attend a boarding school as a boarder. But I want to emphasise that the fees in respect of boarding cannot come from the assisted places scheme. That is barred.

The other point which I think is in answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Masham—it applies in fact to all education, but even more so to this—is that the more money that is spent on what I might call the infrastructure of the scheme (in other words, the more money which is spent on the incidentals under Clause 18) the less money there will be under the scheme for the education of the children under Clause 17.

Baroness BACON

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, was quite correct when he said at the beginning that he assumed this was a probing amendment and that, of course, we did not mean an exact 20-mile limit. However, there was certain information which we had to have, and, in part, that information has been given. I particularly appreciate the fact that the noble Earl said that the travelling expenses would not fall on the local authority. He has referred me to Clause 18. Of course I was aware of Clause 18, but it was what Clause 18 said that made me unsure of what was going to happen. Clause 18 says at the beginning: The Secretary of State may make regulations requiring or enabling schools participating ", et cetera. There is a very great difference between requiring a school to do something and enabling it to do something: one is mandatory and the other is not. However, we have had the assurance from the noble Earl that the travelling expenses will not fall on the local authority, and in view of that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.20 p.m.

Lord STEWART of FULHAM moved Amendment No. 43: Page 18, line 23, leave out from ("school") to ("and") in line 25.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the last amendment was a probing amendment and it probed something out of the Government. If I understood the noble Earl correctly, he was saying that travel expenses certainly could be, and probably would be, dealt with under Clause 18 of the Bill. I do not think that that is an unfair paraphrase of what he said.


My Lords, I interrupt merely to the extent of saying that it is not the Government's intention that the public should pay fees by way of travelling expenses in respect of children whose parents are perfectly able to afford them.


My Lords, perhaps I should amend what I said just now. The noble Earl seems to be saying that, where parents who cannot afford them get an assisted place for a child and there are necessary travelling expenses, those expenses could be dealt with, and probably would be dealt with, under Clause 18. We are saddled with another means test, another aspect of this generally tiresome Bill.

The amendment also probed out a bit of information about boarding education. As I understand it, it ruled beyond any doubt that the State cannot afford to pay boarding fees. That appears to be certain. I would assume, in view of the wording of Clause 17, that one could not bring in boarding fees by the back door under Clause 18 as an incidental expense. But I think that I am right in saying that nowhere does the Bill state that a boarding school, or a school with boarding facilities, cannot be a participating school. There does not appear to be anything to that effect. From the argument that we have just had, it seems possible that a school in a thinly-populated neighbourhood (where, if you were to attend it at all it might be desirable or necessary to be a weekly boarder), could be a participating school. There is nothing in the Act which forbids that. If that is not so and it is explicitly stated that no boarding school can be a participating school, or, if you prefer, no child who has an assisted place can be a boarder, I hope that it will be stated clearly.

If that is so, it would seem to me to be rather unfortunate if one grants the premises of the scheme because it has been pointed out in the previous argument that there might be a case where it would be desirable, and this worries me. If you have a child who has an assisted place and who, because it is a thinly-populated neighbourhood or for any other valid reason, ought to be a boarder or a weekly boarder, what is to happen? The local authority cannot pay the boarding fees or, at least, you could not be certain that it would. The State definitely cannot by virtue of Clause 17. What is to happen? Possibly, as the noble Earl has said, the child might earn some other scholarship or bursary to cover it. But suppose that he does not. What is to happen?

There is no use in saying: "The parent can afford to pay boarding fees because he will not have to keep the child at home." It is perfectly well-known that the fees for a child at boarding school are bound to be substantially more than what it costs to keep the child at home. You might get a situation where a child gets an assisted place (and it is an assisted place that it can take up only if it becomes a boarder or weekly boarder) where the parents cannot afford to pay boarding fees; the local authority almost certainly will not and the State cannot. This is going to mean that a parent of that kind will find his child excluded for financial reasons. The picture of the poor, bright children flocking to the assisted places, is going to be somewhat tarnished in this regard. I think I am on to a real point and I hope that the Government will sort it out.


My Lords, I should like to support this amendment strongly and I hope that the Government will look at it—and not because I expect that there will be a wide demand for places in boarding school. Perhaps I should begin by making it clear that at Second Reading I opposed this scheme altogether. I still do so. But if it is to operate, then it must surely be enabled to fulfil its purpose. There are two aspects, as I see it. First, I do not believe that, if you are really picking with care the schools that are adequate to do this job, you will find a school which can cover the whole of the country to be attended by day pupils. There will be areas where boarding is necessary, whether weekly boarding or not. This is true. More importantly, if you are concerned to give an opportunity to the very bright child from a home of limited means—and it may be a home of very limited means—then providing a good school as a day school may not be the right answer. The right answer might be to send it to a boarding school, so that the child can have the full opportunity that the boarding school offers. It may not have the adequate support at home for studying. If there is substantial travelling, the child's opportunities will be reduced.

If this amendment were accepted, the arrangements, which, after all, are in the hands of the Secretary of State, will enable the number—which could be quite limited—of cases of this kind to be dealt with. There may be no more than a dozen or 20 cases where this is necessary in the country. But it would enable them to be dealt with. The Minister may say that, where there is a need for boarding education, the local education authority can provide it. That is true, although I do not think that many authorities these days would provide it solely on the ground of the high ability of a child. In 1946 I did a report hoping that that might happen, but it did not work.

I therefore hope that the Government might consider accepting the amendment—which would still leave the control completely in the hands of the Secretary of State as to the limited numbers where this would apply; but where boarding can be provided and the boarding costs borne. If this is not done, there will be cases where a child, whom the assisted places scheme was designed to serve, cannot be assisted because of the limitation which the Government have imposed upon themselves.


My Lords, I, too, should like to support this amendment. As noble Lords know, I am 100 per cent. behind this scheme; but if I am 100 per cent. behind it, it must apply to all gifted children. Living where I do, I know well that the really gifted child in Wensleydale could not get the kind of education it needs—it simply could not—in mathematics, science, Greek or whatever. The only way it could do so would be by weekly boarding somewhere. As I indicated in my few remarks on the last amendment, it may be that the receiving schools may have some funds to help out. Where they have not, it seems to me that the door must be left open if this scheme is to be made a reality for help towards boarding for the child who is fortunate or unfortunate enough to live in a very sparsely populated area. I would support what Lord Alexander has said.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I, too, should like to support this amendment. I personally know a boy who is absolutely brilliant at music and singing. The North Yorkshire County Council sent him to Ampleforth College as there was no other place where he could follow his vocation. This boy is now in the sixth form and is going to take up music as a profession. There are lots of other children who could benefit from such places.

Viscount RIDLEY

My Lords, may I be counted among those who would support this? What I said just now about the urban areas very much applies to this. I will not accept, like the noble Lord, Lord James, that Yorkshire is the North- East of England. It is very much the Midlands, where I come from. We have greater problems than in Wensleydale. I think the noble Lord, Lord James, was right in saying that if the scheme is to apply, it must be consistent and apply as far as possible. I hope the Government will find a way round this difficult problem.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have great sympathy with those who support this amendment even when—in the case of noble Lords and Baronesses opposite—I am not sure that they do it with the purest of motives. May I clear up the position, first of all? Under the Bill, assisted places are in respect of fees for education. It is not envisaged—at least at the moment—that it would extend to boarding fees. At the same time, there is no reason why boarding schools under this Bill cannot become, as it were, under the terms of the schedule participating schools. As I said in regard to the last amendment, in certain circumstances a child qualifies (if I may use the term) under this scheme for an assisted place; and if the money can be provided in some other way for that child to become a boarder, then it could become (I do not wish to be patronising) the recipient of what I might call the hybrid largesse.

Having said that, may I now turn to the points my noble friends in particular have made. They would like to see this scheme extended to such schools as take in weekly boarders so that the boarding part of the fees would be paid for under the assisted places scheme. The Government have made it clear throughout the proceedings in the other place and in your Lordships' House that, in the interests of spreading the available resources as widely as possible, the scheme could not extend to boarding fees. The scheme is on a par with the old direct grant scheme, and that was confined to day places. It is right that, having made the decison, we were under a duty to make it clear in the Bill not to leave matters uncertain and not to raise expectations.

If I may continue with the theme of my remarks in dealing with the last amendment, if we provided for boarding fees under the assisted places scheme we would severely limit the number of places which could be offered, or would greatly increase the expenditure involved. The Government have taken a decision as to how much money they think can be devoted to this scheme and—goodness knows!—they have been criticised for devoting to it that comparatively modest sum of money. Nevertheless, this is what was decided. I respectfully suggest to the House that it is right.

It may be possible, as I have said, for some boarding schools to offer places in the scheme; but that part of it will be outside the terms of this particular clause. I should like to confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, said, that the assisted places scheme is in no way intended to deprive local education authorities under their powers which were contained in Section 81 of the 1944 Act. Under that section, there is no reason why a local education authority should not provide the boarding fees. One does not anticipate that they will feel inclined to do so in many cases, but there is nothing to stop them if they think a case merits it. If, for instance, there was a particularly bright or talented pupil, that child could be either sent to a boarding school, simpliciter, by the local education authority, or it could pay for the boarding part of the fees under the assisted places scheme.

The noble Lord's Amendment went slightly wider than tuition and boarding fees. I do not know whether he wished to pursue that. Clause 17(3) provides that the scheme will apply to tuition fees and other fees the payment of which is a condition of attendance at a participating scheme". It is worded in these terms to provide for essential fees such as an initial registration or medical fee. But it would be inappropriate to leave this completely open-ended, and the amendment would sweep away the provision in the second half of Clause 17(3) that additional fees which the Secretary of State did not consider should be supported—for example, a fee for an extra such as swimming instruction or riding lessons—could be excluded under the participation agreement. I do not suppose that this is going to be a major problem, but it is essential that all concerned should know what fees are going to be covered and what will be provided for them. For this reason we shall encourage the practice of an all-inclusive fee system covering the essentials. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, we are not suggesting, as I understand it, that the Government should say that they will provide boarding fees. What this amendment does is to prevent the Government from saying, "In no circumstances will we provide boarding fees". As I understood the Minister earlier, the statement was made that the local authority would not be involved in expenditure for pupils who are given a place under this scheme. What he is now saying is they may well be involved in certain cases in paying more than the cost that the Government are bearing because the boarding cost—if that is necessary full time—will considerably exceed the cost of the day pupil.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 44 not moved.]

4.37 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 19, line 5, after ("State") insert— (" (f) that in the event of an assisted place being granted without the prior consent of the local education authority in whose area the child resides, the participating school shall reimburse the local education authority for the expenditure which it has made on that child's education up to the child's entering the independent school.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have been treated over the past couple of days at the Report stage of this Bill, and previously at the Committee stage, to a paean of praise from the Front Bench opposite to the discretion of local authorities and especially local education authorities. That has been music to the ears of those who have been privileged to serve in local government over many years, and who have not always heard that from Ministers in the Government. It has been said that it would be quite wrong to interfere with the choice by local authorities of those who would be on the governing body. It would be wrong to direct them as to the type of people whom they should choose, because local authorities are quite capable of making that choice and of guiding themselves in that way without any need for anyone to interfere. We have been told that local authorities obviously have the knowledge and experience which is required—and nobody ought to interfere with it—in regard to the nature of the schools they want in their area.

This amendment deals with a situation where an assisted place may be given in a participating school where the local authority's consent has not yet been obtained. One may assume from the wording of this amendment that it would not be obtained. If local authorities are to have all this discretion in so many fields on the basis that they know what is good for the children in their area, your Lordships may feel that it must be right that, where in their view it is in the interests of the child that that child should not go to a participating school but does in fact go there, and the participating school accepts that child, the least that ought to be done, in justice, is that the participating school should be made to pay the appropriate cost of the tuition of that child up to the date when that child enters the participating school.

The participating school would be taking advantage of the education which that child has had to up that date and will have had its own purse, as it were, saved from the expenditure on the education of the child up to that stage. Your Lordships may therefore feel that this amendment is not only just but pays that tribute to the judgment and discretion of local authorities which during these debates the Government Benches have been so keen to emphasise.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, but I do not follow his logic at all. I would understand it if he had said that the local education authority should have a veto on the child being chosen for a selected place. But he did not suggest that, and I do not think that we would have agreed with him had he done so. When the local education authority has expressed disagreement with the fact that the Secretary of State proposes and the child's parents agree that the child should accept an assisted place, I see no logic in asking the selected school then to pay something. That does not appear to follow in the least. The LEA has not been making an investment in the child's education. The person who is making the investment is the child and the child carries that investment with him to the assisted place. The LEA has not lost anything.

Even if the noble Lord does not support the idea, I am sure he is aware that some children go to private preparatory schools and then on to private secondary schools. But nobody suggests that the secondary school should pay the preparatory school for the work it has done before the child goes to the secondary school. The child would normally be going, I understand, from a primary school into the assisted place. Therefore, it may be the same LEA but it is not the same school that is educating the child. I hope that one of the sponsors of this amendment will explain, purely for my benefit, the logic behind this proposal.


My Lords, I certainly cannot support this amendment. To be logical, one might as well say that if a doctor who has been trained in this county obtains a job in a hospital abroad, the latter should be asked to pay this country for that doctor's training. It does not add up.

4.43 p.m.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, part of the reason for this amendment was to try to find out a little more about the position of the local authority as regards the assisted places scheme. So far as I can make out, the circular that went to independent schools on 6th December was sent to the local authorities with a short letter accompanying it explaining the intentions of the assisted places scheme. The only real reference to local education authorities in the documents comes in paragraph 4, which stated: Local education authorities will be notified of provisional responses to the letter of invitation from non-maintained schools in their locality and will he given an opportunity to make known to the Secretary of State their views about the operation of the scheme in their area if they wish to do so.". They are given an opportunity to make their views known, but we do not know what attention will be paid to their views. I hope that the Minister will tell us.

The authorities' reaction has not been very enthusiastic, and the Association of County Councils—hardly a left-wing or radical body—said in one of its documents: The committee wished to emphasise that their main consideration and concern would remain the protection of the standards of provision in LEA schools and they would wish to examine any proposals in that light. In their view, any proposals for an assisted places scheme should not imply that the provision made within the maintained system was inferior. In particular they would be concerned about provision within any scheme for the lowest income group—consequential costs for LEAs, the way in which a decision would be reached on the admission of schools to a scheme, and the question of boarding need.". That of course we have just been discussing, but the ACC clearly wants to protect the standards of provision in LEA schools, and obviously assumes that some people will see that provision as inferior because the Government have decided to set up the scheme. That is certainly the assumption which is being made by many people. It is wrong for Ministers who are in charge of providing State education to let that happen. This is curious when their theme song has been "We must raise standards in State education". Can we really believe that the raising of standards is their first priority?

It is not only the ACC that is critical of the fact that it is being ignored: the Association of Metropolitan Authorities published a document in which it said: A start in 1981–82 will call for additional expenditure at a time when the current economics will be having their most marked effect, and when finances will be under the greatest pressure; this is not the time to put resources into the independent sector, whether by increasing the capacity of the schools or by helping parents to pay for places who would probably pay in any event. Although it is hard at this stage to predict the effect of the scheme in creaming some of the most able pupils from maintained to independent schools, the fact remains that the latter schools are mainly in urban areas where some of the most difficult problems arising from falling rolls are already being tackled. By 1991, because of the continuing fall in the secondary school population, the transfer of maintained-school pupils to independent schools is likely in practice to be from among the top 10 per cent. who stay on to study for A level. Entry at 16 plus to assisted places may well create additional strains on the viability of sixth forms in maintained schools. If an independent school has all its places designated as assisted"— that was one of the justifications for the scheme— the effects on LEA plans and plant will be very great. There is already movement at 16 plus both into and out of the maintained sector; one would not want to increase the movement in one direction. The AMA has also expressed concern that the curriculum in maintained primary schools may be distorted if pressure is applied for exam classes. The letter of 6th December says that selection tests must not be biased against the curriculum in maintained primary schools, but we know what some heads can do.

The AMA went on to ask that LEAs should be involved in the present consultations between the DES and independent school interests and in any national forum established to keep the scheme under review as well as at local level on an individual basis in the operation of the scheme. The authorities want to have consultation and are very much afraid of the effects on their schools, particularly as regards the sixth forms, and of the possible effect on assisted-place schools, including those newly aided schools that may be attracted into applying for membership of a scheme.

The Society of Education Officers, the people to whom the Department circular of 6th December was sent, came out with a very strong statement. It is unusual for them to take such a step. They are the people who are running State education all over the country and they said this: As educationalists, we believe that the educational basis of this scheme is not proven. We believe that there are other and more effective ways of providing for able children…The picture of LEAs running establishments little better than secondary modern schools while their able children go to independent schools is unacceptable … It would not be unreasonable to require governors of independent schools to reach agreement with the LEA on the nature of their entrance examinations". They do want consultations; but are they going to get them? That is the question I want to ask the Minister. Are they going to have any redress for losing a number of their able pupils, as is suggested in this amendment that we are talking about?

In passing, I should like to call the attention of the House to what one local education authority is doing for its gifted children. Three years ago, Birmingham set up a working party on how to recognise gifted children at an early age. They have just produced a document: Gifted and Outstanding Children. I would suggest that perhaps the money which is being spent on the assisted places might instead go to supporting the sort of experiments which are going on and which might help more than the few thousands who may be helped by the assisted places scheme. My immediate question is: how are the local education authorities going to be involved and how are they going to be consulted? Have they any power at all?


My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend in her restatement of what the county councils and also the other educationists have said. Throughout the whole of this debate it has concerned me that on both sides of the House we have constantly reiterated the phrase "bright children". I was one of many Members of your Lordships House who went to grant-aided schools when they went through the terrible trauma of having to make a decision either to come into the State scheme or become independent. As I recall, about 50 per cent. went independent and 50 per cent. went into the State scheme. It seems to me that if we constantly suggest that only the independent school can provide education for the bright child we are downgrading those schools which did not remain independent. They cannot have changed very much, because it is only about a year or two years since this whole business was gone through. This clause makes no particular reference to bright or gifted children. It uses the phrase: for the purpose of enabling pupils who might otherwise not be able to benefit from education". "Education" is a very wide term, and I do not think we should constantly harp on the fact that it is independent schools alone which can provide this sort of facility.

The LEAs have done a marvellous job in taking on the direct grant schools. I had the pleasure of visiting one the other day and the standard of education is very high. After all, the old grammar schools went to the local education authorities and therefore I think it is wrong to suggest, as we have seemed to do throughout this debate, that the only way you can deal with gifted children is to give them an assisted place. Ironically, it could be that the only place which is available for a very bright child would be in one of the original direct grant schools which is now part of the State system. Do they then get some sort of contribution from the Government for taking the child in?


My Lords, I am pleased that my noble friend has raised this point, because people are forgetting the ability and talent that exists in the sixth form colleges, where the most esoteric subject can be taken, particularly physics and mathematics. I do not call them esoteric, but we need 4,000 students in the one and about 2,000 in the other right away. Therefore I do hope that we will not think only of the bright children being sent to these schools but that will remember that there are other places, including polytechnics, from which people have reached the topmost heights of their profession and of their technical abilities.

4.55 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG s

My Lords, I think we have moved rather a long way from the original amendment which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. If this amendment were to be carried it would be a wrecking amendment as regards the whole scheme. Perhaps that was the intention, but the noble Lord asked a number of questions about it and I should just like to say to him that, if he really believes we should have a scheme in which, when the participating schools have some children from the local education authority which that authority wishes were not in the school, the school would then pay to the local education authority what it would have cost that authority to educate the children involved, we are really shuffling children around like pawns in a chess game. I would remind your Lordships that at the end of the day we are talking about children. Those who will be going into the schools are going to be 11 years old: that is what we are talking about, and I really do not think it contributes to an education debate to be discussing them in the kind of way implied by this amendment. I was very pleased to hear the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, on this.

May I say to the noble Baroness, Lady David, that she has raised a quite separate point and has used the amendment as a means of probing the Government's view about their consultations with the local education authorities? I shall do my best to answer the point she has made. My right honourable and learned friend made it very clear when introducing this Bill in another place that we hoped there would be full co-operation with local education authorities in the establishment and development of the scheme. Local education authorities will be free to comment on the scheme as they think fit, but they will also be asked to say if there are any specific ways in which they would like to see the scheme develop locally: for example, by meeting shortages in particular subject areas.

Of course, local authority comments will be carefully considered before the scheme is established and before agreements are signed with individual schools. We believe—this was a point I made at Second Reading—that as regards sixth forms it is worth remembering that all pupils in the sixth forms of what were formerly direct grant schools are still there, paid for by the Government. Therefore, whatever problems there may be in the future, the maintained sixth forms are currently operating at the same time that the type of child who could be in the assisted places scheme is still in the old direct grant school system.

I really do think it is important to understand that it is perfectly possible for the two systems to exist side by side without the kind of fears that are being expressed. Furthermore, on the cost, one really must remember that we are talking about children who will have to be educated in the maintained system if they are not in the assisted places scheme, because the incomes scale in the assisted places scheme makes it perfectly clear that the only parents who will be eligible would be those parents not otherwise able to pay for their child to go to an independent school. So, whatever happens, the child has to be educated somewhere and the cost will be either in the maintained system or in the assisted places scheme.

I hope, that with the assurances I have given—because I believe the noble Baroness has raised an important point about the relationships with local authorities—she will recognise that we are discussing the scheme with them, we shall certainly take into account what they have to say and we hope to have their help and co-operation in making the scheme work successfully.


My Lords, I hope that nobody thought this was supposed to be a wrecking amendment. I specifically said—and I would have hoped that the noble Baroness would have heard me—in my introductory remarks that the discretion that was being left to local authorities was very much a part of the case which was being made by the Government in respect of so many clauses of this Bill. The purpose of my amendments has, I hope, been achieved, in that it has enabled a discussion to take place as to what really the discretion and powers of local education authorities are when it comes to the question of assisted places. I am delighted that the discussion has therefore arisen in your Lordships' House, which has clarified matters, although many of us may feel that enough discretion is still not being given to local education authorities in regard to these matters.

I assure the noble Baroness the Minister that all the people who are participating in the debates in your Lordships' House have one primary consideration, and that is the children. Many of us feel that we have the idea of children so much in our minds the whole time, that we read children into the wording of Bills. We read the pride of children and their pride in their schools in the wording of Bills, and how that pride may be upset when the brighter children in a school are removed from it, as though they are something which the school is ejecting becaue it is incapable of dealing with them, and only the ones who are not so bright remain. I assure the Minister that she certainly does not have to lecture this side on the interests of children and, if I may say so, she certainly does not have to lecture me. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 not moved.]

5.1 p.m.

Baroness DAVID moved Amendment No. 48: After Clause 19, insert the following new clause—

(" Awards for continuing or resuming full-time education

—(1) A local education authority to whom this subsection is applied by an order made by the Secretary of State—

  1. (a) shall be under a duty, subject to and in accordance with regulations so made, to bestow on persons who belong to the area of the authority, or to any part of it specified by the order, awards in respect of their attendance at courses to which this subsection applies and which are specified for the purposes of this paragraph by or under the regulations; and
  2. (b) shall have power, subject to and in accordance with the regulations, to bestow awards on such persons in respect of their attendance at courses to which this sub-section applies and which are not so specified.

(2) Subsection (1) above applies to any course of full-time education provided by a school, establishment for further education or other institution in the United Kingdom, not being a course designated by or under regulations made for the purposes of section 1 or section 3 of the Education Act 1962 (awards for further and higher education); and for the purposes of that subsection it is immaterial—

  1. (a) whether an award is designated by that name or as a scholarship, studentship, exhibition or bursary or by any similar description; or
  2. (b) in what terms the bestowal of an award is expressed.

(3) Subsection (1) above shall not require or authorise a local education authority to bestow an award on any person who, before the beginning of the academic year in which he first attends the course in question, attains the age of nineteen years or such lower age as may be specified in relation to that year by the regulations; and regulations made for the purposes of that subsection shall not require or authorise a local education authority to make payments, in pursuance of an award bestowed on any person, in respect of any period—

  1. (a) before he ceases to be of compulsory school age; or
  2. (b) after he attains the age of twenty-one years.

In this subsection "academic year" means a period of twelve months beginning with 1st September.

(4) Regulations made for the purposes of subsection (1) above shall prescribe the conditions and exceptions subject to which the duty imposed and the power conferred by that subsection are to have effect, and the descriptions of payments to be made in pursuance of awards bestowed thereunder and, with respect to each description of payments, shall—

  1. (a) make provision for determining, by or under the regulations, the circumstance in which, the period in respect of which and the person to whom it is to be payable;
  2. (b) prescribe the amount of the payment or the scales or other provisions by reference to which that amount is to be determined; and
  3. (c) indicate whether the payment is to be obligatory or is to be at the discretion of the authority bestowing the award;
and, subject to the exercise of any power conferred by the regulations to suspend or terminate awards, a local education authority by whom an award has been bestowed under subsection (1) above shall be under a duty, or shall have power, as the case may be, to make such payments as they are required or authorised to make in accordance with the regulations.

(5) In section 1(5)(b) of the Local Government Act 1974 (items excluded from relevant expenditure for purposes of rate support grants) after the words "Education Act 1962" there shall be inserted the words "or section [Awards for continuing or resuming full-time education] of the Education Act 1980 (awards for continuing or resuming full-time education)".

6) After section 8(2) of that Act (specific grants for purposes not covered by rate support grants) there shall be inserted—

"(2A) For the year 1979–80 and each subsequent year the Secretary of State shall pay to each local education authority a grant equal to 90 per cent. of the aggregate amount paid in that year by the authority in pursuance of awards bestowed under section [Awards for continuing or resuming full-time education] of the Education Act 1980 (awards for continuing or resuming full-time education."; and in section 8(3) of that Act for the words "or subsection (2)" there shall be substituted the words" subsection (2) or subsection (2A)".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, many of us hoped that a new Education Bill would show some new thinking and would come forward with some new proposals for the 16 to 19 year-olds. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, in the Second Reading debate on the present Bill, said: I think that the most disappointing thing in this Bill, and in all the Bills since 1944, is the neglect of the child leaving school at 16, the child who almost falls into a pit and is lucky to get a job. Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, the distinguished author of The History of Europe and Warden of New College, introduced in his Bill in 1917 a continuation education scheme for young people. I introduced a similar, but rather more advanced scheme, in 1944. Practically nothing except a few sixth-form colleges has come to fill that gap. I believe that this Bill ought to have tackled the older end of the pupils with more determination, as well as the younger end. A child at 2 is at the age which is known by the Roman Catholic Church and by all who covet children as being in the vital years; but the age after education and before further education is equally vital".—[Official Report, 25/2/80; col. 1051.]

There is nothing in this Bill for the 16 to 19 year-olds and this new clause attempts in a modest way to fill that gap. I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander—and I am sorry that he is not in his place—that we need something much more than this to deal with the whole spectrum of educational provision for the 16 to 19 year-olds. But something must be done now, at a time of very high youth unemployment, to encourage young people to continue their education at a school or establishment for further education, or some other institution; or even, if they left school at 16, to go back for courses that would improve their skills and prospects and, therefore, be of more use to the country.

The idea of maintenance awards is not new. Section 81 of the 1944 Act empowers the Minister to make regulations, for the purpose of enabling pupils to take advantage without hardship to themselves or their parents of any educational facilities available to them", and regulations were made for this purpose.

In 1957, the Minister of Education set up a working party under Sir Toby Weaver, who was then a senior official at the Ministry, to consider the matter of maintenance allowances and whether any changes should be made. The Weaver Report, which was a landmark in the history of educational maintenance allowances, reaffirmed the aims of Section 81 of the 1944 Act. It analysed expenses which fall upon parents whose children remain at school after the compulsory age. Within the different categories of food, clothing, pocket money, holidays, heating and lighting, it calculated the separate costs at different ages. It then calculated the minimum sum which parents, however poor, should be expected to contribute.

The all-party Education and Arts Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee of the House of Commons, reporting on educational maintenance allowances in July 1974, based their findings and recommendations on the Weaver Report. They recommended that all existing educational allowances should be embodied in a single maintenance allowance, that they should be mandatory and administered by the LEAs and that they should be available in September 1975. That did not happen and the Labour Bill of 1978, which sought to introduce them, fell.

What we must do is look at the situation as it is today for a not very highly motivated young person. He can stay on at school or sixth-form college or further education college, but inevitably he will be a heavy charge on the family budget. He will not have in his pocket the money that his friends who have left school and managed to get a job will have, that his friends will have who are on the dole and get £11.50 a week or, indeed, his friends who, having left school and been unemployed for six months, get on the youth opportunities scheme and draw £23.50 a week. I admit that the poor can get a small maintenance allowance from their LEA, if they have a kindly one, but it is inadequate and many who might benefit do not apply. Furthermore, it is only the very poor who can get it.

In 1974–75 only 2 per cent. of 16 year-olds who were in school and 7 per cent. of 16 to 18 year-olds who were in further education received maintenance grants. I should like there to be at least no positive disincentive to staying on in education. The Secretary of State, speaking to the Association of Colleges for Further and Higher Education on 22nd February, said that half of those reaching school-leaving age goon to jobs where they receive no training or they become unemployed.

The clause which I am introducing is lifted straight from the last Government's Bill—and, therefore, I hope that it is drafted correctly—as other clauses in this Bill have been lifted. But I hope that nobody will think the worse of it for that. The clause is so drafted that it can come into force only when the Secretary of State decides that there is no automatic immediate commitment. It extends only to authorities specified in an order made by the Secretary of State, and, if the order so provides, only to young people belonging to specified parts of their areas; for instance, inner city parts. The clause includes provisions in subsection (2) which prevent an overlap between it and Sections 1 and 3 of the Education Act 1962, which relate to awards for designated courses of further and higher education.

The existing discretionary powers of local education authorities to give assistance and to make awards are unaffected. I ndeed, authorities to whom the clause has been applied may exercise those powers so as to afford support additional to that provided by an award under this clause. The awards granted under this clause will rank for 90 per cent. specific grant, as do mandatory awards. They are specifically aimed at those above compulsory school age. A recipient must be under 19 when he embarks on a course, although having started on it he can go on with it till he is 21.

I can predict the Government's response: they are very concerned over 16 to 19 year-olds, committees are working on the problem but, of course, we cannot afford it. To that I say that the problem is urgent. Unemployment is with us and revenue is being paid out in dole money. We ought to be seen to be doing something now. This clause demands no immediate action, but it provides a framework for action. If the clause is accepted and goes into the Bill, action can be taken at any moment. If unemployment among the young gets worse, action might have to be taken very quickly. One point to remember when considering the future expense, is that the number of 16 to 19 year-olds will fall by 25 per cent. in the next 10 years.

As regards the money, the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the 1978 Bill said that the scheme would be applied as a pilot scheme to only a limited number of authorities, and the cost would be about £15 million in a full year. If you subtract the dole payments that may be made, would there be left a figure very much above, if at all above, what will be paid out on the assisted places scheme? My Lords, I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, has said, this amendment repeats the last Administration's scheme for a system of mandatory awards for 16- to 18-year-olds continuing in full-time education. Clauses to this effect were included in their Education Bill of 1978. The mandatory awards would apply to pupils either at school or at college. This would be in addition to the discretionary powers which local authorities already have to pay grants.

This is a subject which arouses a great and understandable degree of concern, and I accept the very real consideration that the noble Baroness gave in her remarks when she was speaking to this amendment. I appreciate the strength of the arguments that the current arrangements for financial assistance for young people in this age group seem to load the dice against those who stay on at school or at college.

It is very necessary, however, to consider the many factors which affect young people's decisions as to whether or not to stay on at school or college. Sometimes more important are the quality of the courses offered and young people's perceptions of their value to them in later life. The Government are concerned about the educational and training opportunities for young people but we believe that their needs and the provision made for them should be seen as a whole. As the noble Baroness referred to this, may I say that we have embarked upon a major review with the local authority associations of the relationships between school, further education and training for the 16- to 19year-olds.

We cannot just dismiss the cost of such new proposals as this. I think that the figure which the noble Baroness gave is very relevant to our consideration of them, and I accept that when she moved the amendment she said that they would be brought in at a date in the future to be determined. But the difficulty about accepting an arrangement like that is that once it is on the statute book the pressure is always on the Secretary of State to bring it in. I think it is fairer to indicate why one is unable to accept it at this stage rather than to lead people to hope that something will be available to them when, in the present financial circumstances, it cannot be available to them.

May I say a word about the comparisons between those who are in work and out of work. There are differences between the financial arrangements for young people continuing in full-time education and those who are unemployed and who may be undertaking part-time further education on the "three days" a week concession, or be on a Youth Opportunities Programme. In these cases, we are not comparing like with like. For a young person to be eligible for supplementary benefit, he must be and remain available for work. He may, however, take part-time further education, strictly for up to 21 hours a week, without forfeiting that eligibility. It seems right that he should be allowed to use his time profitably in this way while unemployed and drawing supplementary benefit in any case. Similar considerations apply to those young people benefiting from a Youth Opportunities Programme allowance. They would otherwise be unemployed and drawing supplementary benefit or unemployment benefit in their own right, and they remain available for work throughout the programme. The circumstances of young people in full-time education are different. They are not available for work and are therefore not eligible for those benefits in their own right.

I have tried to set out the arguments on this amendment as fully as I can and to make it clear that the Government are not ignoring the needs of these young people and that we recognise the disparities in financial provision available for those in full-time education as compared with their unemployed contemporaries. We opposed a similar measure when it was first introduced and I am afraid that we cannot accept this amendment today. It is only right for me to tell the House that we have no plans to change the present legislative provisions for those young people who continue their formal education beyond 16. Local education authorities have the discretion to make awards to this age group and to decide the extent to which to do so. We do not intend to remove this discretion, or to advise authorities how they should exercise it, or to make it mandatory.

As to the longer term, any proposals to change the present arrangements will need to be considered in the light of the current review we are undertaking into the relationship between schools, further education and training for this group and of the public expenditure policies then prevailing. As I have indicated, I am afraid that I cannot accept the amendment and I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw it.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, the answer was not, of course, entirely unexpected, but I do feel very strongly about the position of the 16- to 19-year-olds at this moment. I should therefore like to press my amendment.

5.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 48) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 85; Not-Contents, 135.

Airedale, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Peart, L.
Ardwick, L. Gregson, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Avebury, L. Hale, L.
Aylestone, L. Hampton, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Bacon, B. Hatch of Lusby, L. Rochester, L.
Banks, L. Henderson, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Birk. B. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Sainsbury, L.
Blease, L. Hughes, L. Seear, B.
Blyton, L. Hylton, L. Shinwell, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Simon, V.
Bowden, L. Jacques, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Brimelow, L. Janner, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Jeger, B. Stone, L.
Byers, L. Kaldor, L. Strabolgi, L.
Chitnis, L. Kirkhill, L. Strauss, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Leatherland, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Collison, L. Lee of Newton, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Listowel, E. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Underhill, L.
David, B. Lovell-Davis, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.[Teller.]
Davies of Leek, L. McGregor of Durris, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Maelor, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Maybray-King, L. Whaddon, L.
Foot, L. Meston, L. White, B.
Galpern, L. Milford, L. Wigoder, L.
Gladwyn, L. Mishcon, L. Willis, L.
Gordon-Walker, L. Northfield, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Oram, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Gosford, E. Parry, L.
Abercorn, D. Ellenborough, L. Margadale, L.
Adeane, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Marley, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Elton, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Enniskillen, E. Middleton, L.
Allerton, L, Exeter, M. Monk Bretton, L.
Alport, L. Faithfull, B. Morris, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Falkland, V. Mottistone, L.
Amory, V. Ferrers, E. Mountgarret, V.
Ampthill, L. Forester, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Armstrong, L. Fortescue, E. Newall, L.
Auckland, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Northchurch, B.
Balerno, L. Galloway, E. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Gisborough, L. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Barnby, L. Glasgow, E. Orkney, E.
Bellwin, L. Gormanston, V. Pender, L.
Belstead, L. Gowrie, E. Penrhyn, L.
Bolton, L. Gridley, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Bradford, E. Grimston of Westbury, L. Redmayne, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Hanworth, V. Reigate, L.
Chesham, L. Harvington, L. Renton, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Hayter, L. Ridley, V.
Clitheroe, L. Henley, L. Rochdale, V.
Cockfield, L. Hill of Luton, L. Romney, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Hylton-Foster, B. St. Aldwyn, E.
Cottesloe, L. Ilchester, E. St. Davids, V.
Cranbrook, E. James of Rusholme, L. St. Just, L.
Croft, L. Kimberley, E. Saint Oswald, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Kinloss, Ly. Sandford, L.
Daventry, V. Kinnaird, L. Sandys, L.[Teller.]
Davidson, V. Kinnoull, E. Selkirk, E.
de Clifford, L. Kintore, E. Sempill, Ly.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Sharples, B.
Digby, L. Long, V. Somers, L.
Dowding, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Spens, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Lyell, L. Stamp, L.
Dulverton, L. McFadzean, L. Strathcarron, L.
Dundee, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Strathclyde, L.
Dundonald, E. Macleod of Borve, B. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Ebbisham, L. Mancroft, L. Strathspey, L.
Eccles, V. Mansfield, E. Swinton, E.
Tranmire, L. Vaizey, L. Westbury, L.
Trefgarne, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Trenchard, V. Vernon, L. Wolverton, L.
Trumpington, B. Vickers, B. Wrenbury, L.
Tweedsmuir, L. Vivian, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Schedule 5 [Provisions substituted in the Education Act 1962]:

5.25 p.m.

Lord VAIZEY moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 41, line 44, at end insert— ("(e) such courses for professional training in dance, drama and music as may be approved by the Secretary of State.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an amendment which I think is of some importance. I did not move it at the Committee stage because there was a more general amendment which covered the whole field and, at that time, I thought it would be a mistake to take individual questions. Although this affects only a small number of students it affects that small number very deeply indeed, so that the degree of benefit which would come through the acceptance by the Government of this amendment would be considerable. The position at the moment is that most people studying for professional courses in music, the drama and the dance are not on degree courses. There are of course degree courses in all these subjects but by and large they are not taken by practitioners in the subject; they are taken by people who are going to teach the subjects or who are reading honours degrees, for example, in music, because it happens to be a general liberal education. I am concerned with the relatively small number of students who are each year preparing for professional positions in the professions which are associated with the theatre, with dance and with music. It is a small number and it is an area of our national life of great importance, in which I think Britain is one of the leading nations. One reason why it is one of the leading nations is quite clearly because the standards of training are, generally speaking, exceptionally high.

Because these are not degree courses the grants are discretionary and the result of this is really gross unfairness. If a person happens to come from one county and is accepted at a certain prestigious school, that person almost automatically gets a grant. For example, the ILEA has always been extremely liberal in this respect. A person coming from another authority might not get a grant at all, although there is absolutely no difference whatsoever in their ability. This kind of discrimination of course is not allowed in degree courses but it is allowed in these kinds of courses and one of the responses of the schools is to try to put the training courses into a degree course structure, which is a professional deformation which I think is much to be regretted. It is unnecessary to academicise extraordinarily successful professional courses.

This subject has been studied by the Gulbenkian Foundation. Two reports have been published, of which I was the chairman: one on music and one on drama and another is about to be published of which Mr Peter Brinson, the Director of the Gulbenkian Foundation is the Chairman, on dance. Broadly speaking, our conclusions were that too many people pursue these courses for the jobs available. There is substantial unemployment among potential professional musicians and, of course, among actors and actresses. We advocated the setting up of boards which would judge which schools were best, which should be approved and that these schools should then be eligible under a scheme for mandatory awards.

In the case of music and the drama the boards are already functioning. The National Council for Drama Training under the chairmanship of Mr. William van Straubenzee, the distinguished Member of another place and a former junior Minister in the Department of Education and Science, has tripartite membership with representatives of the union—Equity—of the employers, the Society of West End Management and other employers' organisations, and of the drama schools themselves and it is actively working. A similar organisation has been established for music with the support of the musicians union and the employers in that field, including the BBC. That is under the chairmanship of Mr. John Hosier, the principal of the Guildhall School of Music and a similar scheme will shortly be established for the dance. The scheme really depends for its success upon some acceptance at some stage by the DES of the notion that there will be mandatory grants for people who go to the schools or colleges which are recognised by these boards. The function of these boards is both to raise the standards of the schools which they recognise and to diminish the number of students who are studying these subjects because one of the principal aims in raising standards is to diminish the number of people who are seeking jobs—if I may say so, hopelessly, because there are just not the jobs around in drama, or in music or in the dance.

This amendment entails no extra public expenditure at all. First, because what is proposed is a permissive power to be given to the Secretary of State; secondly because the whole structure of what I might call the Gulbenkian schemes depends upon a diminution in the number of students and an increase in the quality of the students. So we would have fewer students on mandatory grants than we now have on discretionary grants, the difference being that any school would not be faced in any one year with the arbitrary element that some of its best students did not get discretionary grants and therefore it had to make up the numbers with inferior students or with people from overseas. This is an important amendment which I think has commended itself to all without exception who have studied the subject, and it has widespread support throughout the arts. I hope very much that the Minister will accept it. My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name on the Marshalled List.


My Lords, as I have finally returned to my place on the Bench here, I should like to say a brief word in support of my noble friend Lord Vaizey. I am a governor of a school which provides dance, drama and music, which indeed is closely related, as the noble Lord would know, to the Gulbenkian Trust; they are very interested in it. I entirely support everything that Lord Vaizey has said; there is an unfortunate discrimination against such bodies, and students may be put at a great disadvantage because some local authorities give them grants and some do not. This may deprive the community in the future of an able young man or girl who might well find a great career in these artistic professions. I hope that my noble friend Lady Young will be able to say a sympathetic word for this, because there is a small but strong case here.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, whether he could tell us if the schools that he has in mind are teaching general subjects as well as music, drama and dance, or are they entirely specialist schools? So far as dance is concerned, of course, children normally start learning dancing long before they have completed their normal, formal education.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down—I am not allowed to speak twice, but perhaps I could use that magic formula to give the answer—the schools we have in mind are things like the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Ballet School, and similar institutions.


My Lords, may I support the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, very strongly. I always have in mind the case that we had years ago in Lancashire with Kathleen Ferrier, who applied for a scholarship and did not get one, simply because of the reasons Lord Vaizey has stated today. I think this amendment is very important indeed and we should go all the way to support the noble Lord.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I recognise the very great interest and knowledge that my noble friend Lord Vaizey has in this subject, and, as he has quite rightly said, the present situation is that awards should be mandatory for students taking full-time courses of first degree or equivalent level, or initial teacher training courses, whatever the subject of study. Nevertheless, a number of degree and degree equivalent courses in music attract mandatory awards. I realise that many courses in drama and dance, in particular, are designed for performers and, in consequence, do not require the achievement of an academic level which can be regarded as comparable to degree courses. They are therefore eligible for discretionary awards, and this is where the problem the noble Lord has stated arises.

It may be helpful to the House if I set out some of the complexities that arise if we consider the extension of mandatory awards to courses in the performing arts. At present, mandatory awards apply only to advanced level courses of further education. A very substantial departure from current policies would be involved in an extension into the field of non-advanced further education, which encompasses many of the performers' courses which might present themselves for designation for mandatory awards. If this were to lead to awards for all full-and part-time non-advanced studies, the costs would be counted in hundreds of millions of pounds, and we could not contemplate that. On the other hand, if such a wide extension were not envisaged, I do not see an equitable basis for distinguishing between one course and another.

The noble Lord's amendment would limit the Secretary of State's new power to courses in music, dance and drama, but not just to full-time advanced level courses. Even if it were proposed to consider for mandatory awards only full-time advanced courses for performers, it would still be inequitable to consider these in isolation. The areas of study for professional and vocational qualifications for which mandatory awards are not available extends far beyond the arts; and I would find it difficult to accept an amendment which would give special treatment to actors, dancers and musicians, while recognising the great importance that they have, while ignoring the claims of others; and we have a long list of them, lawyers, social workers, technicians of various kinds, speech therapists, librarians and others.

I recognise the point that the noble Lord has made about the working party, which I believe he chaired, which was to identify the circumstances in which mandatory awards might be given for certain pupils who qualify in some particular way. The working party recommended that once institutions had been accredited by bodies which would be recognised by the department and by the local authorities and the professions, consideration should be given to recognising their courses for mandatory awards. This, however, must be considered in the context of the Council of Local Education Authorities' recommendation that all other full-time advanced courses should attract mandatory awards and that students engaged in part-time study for degrees should be able to look to local education authorities for mandatory assistance. So long as these recommendations cannot be implemented, the best that can be hoped for is that local education authorities use the accreditation lists as the basis for making discretionary awards, as indeed was originally envisaged.

I realise this is a very disappointing answer to give to my noble friend. Perhaps he will not be surprised to hear it in the context of everything else. This is a matter which I recognise is of importance, as indeed are the other amendments which the House has before it this afternoon. The noble Lord says this would not cost anything because the date of implementation would be decided by the Secretary of State. The difficulty of all these awards is that once we had agreed that they should be on the statute book the pressure for implementaton would be very great indeed, which is always the case, and it would of course be very difficult to resist.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, could she take on board the fact that I did not say it was just the date of implementation, but that the actual number of students would be reduced and total public expenditure would actually fall.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I did take that point. But even if my noble friend is right in saying that the total number of students within the particular areas that he is talking about would be reduced, the point which has been made by the local authorities and others is that once we extended the scheme of mandatory awards to one group we would in fairness have to look at other groups, which would mean at the end of the day that the total number would inevitably be increased. It is because I think it would be so difficult, once this was on the statute book, for the Secretary of State to resist its implementation, because naturally the pressure for it would be very great, that I am unable to accept it this afternoon. I hope therefore that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.


My Lords, the Government are committed to a high profile on the arts. We have recently passed the National Heritage Bill and also implemented the public lending right. The Chancellor of the Duchy has recently announced substantially increased support to the Arts Council. I cannot see why this amendment, which actually involves a reduction in public expenditure, is unacceptable. I think the argument that it is inequitable

because other people are interested is a phoney one. So I regret I shall have to ask the House to divide.

5.39 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 49) be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 77; Not-Contents, 121.

Annan, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ardwick, L. Gregson, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Avebury, L. Hale, L. Rochester, L.
Aylestone, L. Hampton, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Bacon, B. Hatch of Lusby, L. Sainsbury, L.
Balogh, L. Hughes, L. Seear, B.
Barrington, V. Irving of Dartford, L. Spens, L.
Birk, B. Janner, L. Stamp, L.
Blease, L. Jeger, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Blyton, L. Kaldor, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Leatherland, L. Strabolgi, L.
Boyle of Handsworth, L. Lee of Newton, L. Strauss, L.
Brimelow, L. Listowel, E. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Chitnis, L. Longford, E. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Lovell-Davis, L. Underhill, L.
Collison, L. McGregor of Durris, L. Vaizey, L.[Teller.]
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Maelor, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.[Teller.]
Crowther-Hunt, L. Masham of Hton, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
David, B. Milford, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Mishcon, L. Whaddon, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Northfield, L. White, B.
Evans of Claughton, L. O'Brien of Lothbury, L. Wigoder, L.
Foot, L. Oram, L. Willis, L.
Galpern, L. Parry, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Peart, L. Wynne- Jones, L.
Gosford, E. I Phillips, B.
Abercorn, D. Daventry, V. Hill of Luton, L.
Abinger, L. Davidson, V. Hives, L.
Adeane, L. de Clifford, L. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Denham, L.[Teller.] Hornsby-Smith, B.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Digby, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Allerton, L. Drumalbyn, L. James of Rusholme, L.
Alport, L. Dulverton, L. Kimberley, E.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Dundee, E. Kinloss, Ly.
Amory, V. Ebbisham, L. Kinnard, L.
Ampthill, L. Eccles, V. Kinnoull, E.
Armstrong, L. Ellenborough, L. Kintore, E.
Balerno, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Elton, L. Long, V.
Barnby, L. Enniskillen, E. Lyell, L.
Bellwin, L. Falkland, V. McFadzean, L.
Belstead, L. Ferrers, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Bolcon, L. Forester, L. Mancroft, L.
Bradford, E. Fortescue. E. Mansfield, E.
Butler of Saffron Waldon, L. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Margadale, L.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Galloway, E. Marley, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Glasgow, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Chesham, L. Glenkinglas, L. Middleton, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Gormanston, V. Monk Bretton, L.
Clitheroe, L. Gowrie, E. Mottistone, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Gridley, L. I Mountgarret, V.
Cottesloe, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Cranbrook, E. Hanworth, V. Newall, L.
Croft L. Harvington, L. Northchurch, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Henley, L. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Orkney, E. Saint Oswald, L. Trefgarne, L.
Pender, L. Sandford, L. Trenchard, V.
Penrhyn, L. Sandys, L.[Teller.] Tweedsmuir, L.
Rawlinson of Ewell, L. Selkirk, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Redmayne, L. Sempill, Ly. Vernon, L.
Reigate, L. Strathcarron, L. Vickers, B.
Renton, L. Strathclyde, L. Vivian, L.
Ridley, V. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Rochdale, V. Strathspey, L. Wolverton, L.
St. Aldwyn, E. Swinton, E. Wrenbury, L.
St. Davids, V. Tranmire, L. Young, B.
St. Just, L.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

I Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.48 p.m.

Lord WIGODER moved Amendment No. 50:

Page 41, line 44, at end insert— ("(e) full time courses leading to either the Common Professional Examination for the profession of Solicitor or Barrister, or to the final examination of either of the said professions.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was not moved in Committee; instead a rather more general amendment was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who rose to his feet at 5.18 in the morning of 12th March and it is perhaps hardly surprising that, during the brief debate that followed, the noble Baroness, Lady Young—whose efforts, if I may say so, in the course of these proceedings we all so much admire—indicated that it was not quite the appropriate moment to do full justice to this particular matter. Therefore, I do not apologise for returning to the topic at this stage, although I think that I can do so with some brevity.

The object of the amendment is to include in the list of those who may receive mandatory grants from local education authorities, law students, so that they can be added as a category to the existing categories set out in Schedule 5 to the present Bill. I hope that I do not need to stress that this is a matter of consequence to all of your Lordships and not simply to the legal profession, because it is hardly necessary, I think, to exaggerate the importance to all of us of having a free and fearless legal profession and a wholly independent and impartial judiciary. I believe it means that that can be achieved only if that is a career which is open to people from all sections of society, quite irrespective of their means.

Indeed, the Bar has, perhaps, a particular difficulty in this respect, because by its very structure it is an extremely precarious profession for any young man who is embarking upon it, despite all that the Bar seeks to do by way of scholarships, grants, loans and so forth. Therefore, I suggest that there is a case for this amendment in the general public interest, not simply in the interest of the legal profession alone.

In fact, the present position is that discretionary grants are payable and many local authorities, to their credit, make such grants. However, particularly in recent times of increasing financial stringency, it has become something of a gamble. The person who aspires to join the legal profession will succeed or fail in his application depending on which part of the country he happens to live. Indeed, it has become so much of a gamble that not very long ago a decision was made in one local education authority that discretionary awards would be made to Bar students; the authority began to make the awards in alphabetical order of the names before it, but when it reached the letter "H" it decided that it could not afford any more, and as a result all the other applicants were unsuccessful. As someone whose name begins with the letter "W", I regard that as a highly unfair method of procedure.

There is respectable support for the principle set out in this amendment. No doubt your Lordships will recollect that when the 1978 Education Bill was before Parliament it contained a Clause 15 and a Schedule 2, Clause 15 being almost indistinguishable from this present amendment. That was then a clause which met with the enthusiastic support of the present Secretary of State for Education, Mr. Carlisle, and support from Dr. Rhodes Boyson; indeed, not one member of the Conservative Party at that stage spoke in any way against this proposal. It had that support from that source. There is support from the Royal Commission on Legal Services, which in its recent report came out very strongly in favour of mandatory grants for the vocational stage of legal training.

I should add, of course, that I entirely accept the Government's argument that it is impractical to embark on any substantial new expenditure at this particular stage of our economic problems. I do not ask for that. I simply ask that the Government should recognise the need and the claim of law students, and should include the profession among those to which mandatory grants can be payable when, in due course, regulations are made by the Government. I do not ask that such regulations should be made at the moment. I ask that as and when the economic situation improves they should be made, but that recognition should be given now to the acceptance by the Government of that obligation. In the course of the debate in the other place it was suggested that it would be difficult to do this because apparently there is very little prospect of the economy improving in the foreseeable future.

I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, does not wish to take that approach on behalf of the Government of which she is such a distinguished member. In the other place it was also suggested as an alternative that instead of including this in the present Bill—although the Government recognise the need for such a proposal—it could be included in some future Education Bill. I am sure it is not intended that there should be a major Education Bill every two or three years of this Government's life. Indeed, I am sure that the noble Baroness would be appalled at such a prospect! I ask her to consider whether, if there is merit in the proposal—as there clearly is because it has been accepted by her own Secretary of State, her own Minister that there is merit in the proposal—it could not be included in some form in this Bill, to be brought into effect at a future stage when economic considerations permit. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, has made this case in, if I may say so, a very restrained manner. I should like to support him in his staking a claim for the future, because, in effect, that is what he has done. However, I should like to add just one or two brief comments. First, it has become notorious that some local education authorities have found it impossible to do anything to help those who wish to enter the legal profession. Other authorities have been generous and others have put forward a sort of notional solution—they have given a very small discretionary grant. Clearly, that is not just or satisfactory.

The other point I wish to make is, 1 am afraid, the same as the one I made in the early hours of the morning last week. It is that it is right in relation to both branches of the profession—either branch being able to produce judges—that the people of this country should feel that they have a broad spread not only of talent, but a broad social spread of young people entering both branches of the profession. We shall not get complete satisfaction until, at some future date, grants become mandatory.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, I speak not only as a member of the solicitors' profession, but as an ex-Member of the other place. I do not believe that the position of the legal profession in this country and the particular part it plays in respect of the community as a whole is yet appreciated. Let me be perfectly clear about this. Most Members of Parliament have had experience of people coming to them in order to take advice and possibly the same applies to Members of this House. In my experience, I have had thousands of such cases. It is true that I was a Member of the other place for a very long time and I have been a member of the solicitiors' profession for over 60 years. Those of us who have held surgeries, as we call them, will realise that a very large number of the so-called men-in-the-street have problems which have to be solved by legal advice.

Let me say at once that I have an interest in this. I happen to have been alternatively the chairman or the vice-chairman, when the various Governments have come to power, of the Solicitors' Group of Members of both Houses. We are anxious, and I am sure that the country is anxious, that there should be full opportunity for a person to be properly advised and represented when he has either a legitimate grievance or a grievance which he thinks is legitimate, in which latter case he consults a professional person who can explain to him why his grievance is not legally important. Every person must be given the opportunity to consult professional people with a view to understanding whether his or her grievance is legally right or wrong and, if it is right, to have his case properly attended to. It is not just a matter of little concern; on the contrary, it is of very deep concern. I am sure that every Member of this House is anxious that nobody should be prevented from obtaining proper advice in relation to these problems which range over a very large scale.

I said a moment or two ago that I was speaking as a solicitor who has been in practice for some 60 years. I can tell your Lordships that, while it is perfectly true that the majority of people have no occasion to consult lawyers over their problems, a vast number of people do, and the whole situation goes practically from the cradle to the grave with problems at every stage of life. The question, therefore, is: Are we doing the right thing? If I may say so with respect, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, except on a matter which I gather he has left alone because it was not carried last time at five o'clock in the morning. I think it was because people were not fully aware of the situation that his amendment was not carried.

Are we or are we not concerned—this is the point—with justice being given to all through the best advice that can possibly be obtained? Are not the professions the right people to consider this question and to place it before the Government? Surely it is not going very far to say that the principle—I would go very much farther, of course, as did my noble friend Lord Mishcon—is an indication that when times are better people shout: "It's no good." We know the financial position is bad, but justice is a very important point to consider when deciding whether or not you are going to support a particular profession or case which is put before you.

I say to you that this is a case which requires the utmost consideration and that the amendment should be immediately observed by your Lordships and by the noble Baroness and the noble Lords on the other side of the House. What does it do? It lays down the principle that with proper representation of people who have complaints which have to be dealt with legally, we shall sooner or later have the opportunity of dealing with the position by having young people trained irrespective of their financial means. It is a shame that some people have been and are going to be lost to the profession because they have not had the means to carry on. Surely, they should have the opportunity sooner or later. I know this amendment will give us the chance to ask the Government about the matter from time to time. Is that what has frightened them? If it is, I think they are wrong because it should be open to us to say to the Government, "Look, the financial position has improved or whatever it may be, "and we think the grants should become mandatory."

We know very well that some local authorities—we have heard this already, and I shall not go over ground that has been covered—have not taken this view. Consequently, I hope that when the noble Baroness replies she will agree that it is not difficult for her to decide in favour of the amendment but that the Government themselves should he pleased that it has been moved.


My Lords, I hope you will forgive me if I speak on a personal basis. I shall speak against this amendment. I have a son who is a "baby" barrister; he passed out in the top 8 per cent. of his class in his Bar finals. He has not been able to get into chambers. He is nearly 25 and has not earned a penny yet. That is no fault of his. He is surrounded by friends from his university who also are unable to get into chambers. In my view—and I say this in all humility—there are too many barristers at the moment. There is not enough work for them. When I occasionally sit in the Crown Courts with judges they tell me they are heads of chambers and they are going back to their offices to tell their pupils that they have no work for them and that they will have to leave.

I personally think that this amendment is unnecessary at the present time. I cannot speak for the solicitors' side of the profession, but it is my belief that there are too many young men wrongly going into the barristers' side of the law, because there is not enough work for them.


My Lords, the case for the amendment has already been so fully made by the Members of all three political parties that I do not propose to add to it. May I reply to what has just been said. The Bar, having no senior partners and no employers, and standing on their own feet, have always been regulated by the laws of supply and demand. There have always been times when there are too many barristers, too many solicitors, and times when there have been too few. We are legislating for the future. I should have thought we ought to have regard to the general position, and I rise in particular because I should not like anybody to be under any misapprehension that I strongly support this amendment.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, so far in the course of these debates the controversy has been largely confined to the two Front Benches with occasional interruptions from those on the Back Benches. My only intervention occurred when this subject, or something very much like it, came before us one day last week when I ventured to offer a few observations. It requires some courage, believe me—not physical courage; that is easy, or at any rate I have always found it comparatively easy—but moral courage, to face up to three famous legal luminaries—Lord Wigoder, Lord Renton, a colleague of mine in another place, and an ex-Lord Chancellor. I ask you! So if in the course of my observations there are defects, grammatically, logically, philosophically and certainly legally, I hope I may be forgiven.

It will be noted that neither of those who have spoken in favour of this amendment has offered any opinion as to the cost involved. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, did touch on it when he criticised, by implication, some local authority who had provided a derisory grant. Of course, his suggestion was that it was not enough. How much will it cost? That is very important.

Training a person to become a barrister, I always understood, meant—what do they call it?—"eating in Inns" one had to consume, metaphorically and figureatively speaking, a number of meals. The whole business—I nearly said stinks, but I must not use that word; I have the word!—reeks of finance, cost, and periods when it is almost impossible to make it a gainful occupation.

We talk about barristers. One has only to look at another place. It is cluttered up with them. Briefless barristers. All the training in the world has forced them to become candidates; some on the Conservative side, some on the Labour side. Some by mistake. It often happened accidentally. They were not quite sure which side to be on. They weighed it up and said, "That's the kind of Government we are going to have shortly, and I am going to be on the winning side." I know some of them. I have known them. Some have disappeared.

I speak as one who knows very little about education. I had practically none myself. I have made the best of it, with struggle, sacrifice, hardship and traumatic experiences. But although I have a limited knowledge of educational matters, I believe that if we are going to use this legislation wisely and sensibly—to use the term used by Lord Robbins the other day in the course of his speech—and if our education system is going to be effective and efficient, then we have to take the long view. What sort of people do we want 25 and 30 years hence? We shall be wanting engineers, scientists, technicians and technologists. These are what the country needs. The more of them the better.

The whole purpose of education however—let me qualify my previous observations— is not to create careers for particular professions. The purpose of education is to acquire knowledge, and then to use that knowledge to the best advantage, and it is for the person who acquires knowledge and becomes intelligent to decide which profession, which industry, which occupation suits his ability and his outlook. The noble Baroness opposite who opposed the amendment—and did so rightly—said that we had too many barristers. I would not go so far as that, except to say that those of the legal profession who have spoken had better be careful: do not encourage more competition. When I heard my noble friend Lord Janner speaking, if I may say so with great respect, he took a long time to say very little on the subject. It is sometimes too much. Do not let us go too far.

Let those young people to whom reference has been made who acquire knowledge, get their O-levels and go through all the schools, even the highest of our scholastic institutions, and have to make their contribution, them consider what contribution can be made in the general interest of our country, and not decide that one particular profession is for them. For example—and with this I think I shall have said enough; I feel there will be general agreement about that—why do we not add to this amendment that they should qualify to become politicians? That is needed more than providing more barristers. For heaven knows—and one must be careful in saying this; it might be regarded as a matter to be considered by the Privileges Committee—a vast number of them could do with a little more education and knowledge not of a legal character but of a kind that would enable them to understand what people need and what the country requires. That is what we want.

I venture to say, with the utmost respect to the members of the legal profession, whom I have had to use myself in the course of my lifetime—and I have had to pay them; I never got anything for nothing out of them; it is a remarkable thing that you never get anything for nothing out of the legal profession, though you would not expect to anyhow—that it is unnecessary to accept this amendment, but if it is decided to accept it, then all I can say is that I will remain on the fence. I shall be neutral. I shall vote neither on one side nor the other.


My Lords—

6.17 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I think it might be for the convenience of the House if I intervened at this stage. I am sure that I should take Lord Shinwell's advice. I am not sure whether his education for politicians was directed at me or not, but I shall carefully read what he has said in Hansard tomorrow morning. I am sure that one should take his advice and be rather careful when engaging in argument with so many distinguished lawyers. I listened with great care to what the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said in introducing this amendment. I and my colleagues accept the importance of the legal profession and its role in society, and we recognise that it is arguable that we might include in this Bill a reserve power, to be used when resources become available, to make mandatory awards for those taking the professional qualifications to become barristers or solicitors. On the other hand one has to view this once again in its wider context.

The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, reminded the House that when the former Labour Administration had an Education Bill in 1978 they included a power to extend mandatory awards to advance professional and vocational courses. Not surprisingly, the omission of this clause from the Bill has prompted amendments during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill both in another place and here. During the debates on these amendments the Government have maintained that, although they welcomed the provision contained in the 1978 Education Bill because it seemed in principle to be a reasonable development, in the light of the present economic circumstances they feel that they cannot bring forward a similar amendment in this Bill.

It might therefore be helpful for me to say what the cost would be. We estimate that the cost of extending mandatory awards to training for barristers and solicitors is estimated at some £3 million to £4 million, and for all full-time advanced professional and vocational courses the cost would be at least £10 million or more. It is not for me to comment on my noble friend's most interesting remarks about the numbers of barristers and her family in particular, but I would confirm the point she made that most courses remain full despite the fact that it is discretionary awards that are granted for them. This must be a measure of the fact that for the courses that there are, the numbers of discretionary awards that are given are enough to make sure that there are no vacant places.

I recognise the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Wigoder and Lord Renton, that because we are talking about discretionary awards, not all authorities will award them and therefore there could be a variation and there might not be the same social spread as there would be if every authority made the award. On this matter, as on other amendments in the group, the Government believe it would not be right at this stage to agree to this power being included in the Bill for the reasons I have advanced earlier; namely, that if we accepted the amendment we would be under great pressure to bring in the duty to make a mandatory award, and in the present financial circumstances of the country we would be unable to do so. I hope the noble Lord will accept that explanation and withdraw the amendment.


My Lords, the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Shinwell were fascinating. Everyone knows that the famous Manny Shinwell could have excelled in any field he wished without any specific training; he obviously did not require the training in politics which he advises others to have, and I doubt that even if they had the training they would achieve what Manny Shinwell has achieved throughout his life.

However, this amendment is dealing with a matter of considerable significance which cannot be brushed aside and dismissed as trivial. I have to admit that if it dealt retrospectively with what happened in the past, I should be involved because my wife is now engaged in her final year of a barrister's course, but the amendment cannot affect here. We are dealing with something which is an essential part of the qualifications of a lawyer. A person may spend three years at university, take the course and do extremely well, but he does not qualify as a barrister, for he has then to take a further year to become a qualified barrister.

I was trained as a chemist and at the end of three years I got my degree and could have taken a job as a chemist. I was lucky enough to get a grant to go on and do research, and it was not until after a further two years that I had the training and qualification which was regarded as acceptable, for example by ICI, to get a good job in the chemical industry.I would not have got a job, which I did later, as a university lecturer unless I had had a further two years' training. To pretend that in three years you can have a training which qualifies you for any profession, other than politics, is absurd. No other country in the world gives anyone in three years a qualification which enables him to take a good job. On the Continent of Europe the minimum period is about five years and is often seven years, and in America the minimum period to get an initial qualification, which does not qualify you to practice very far, is four years.

In the legal profession you must have this qualification of a further one year course. It is essential to become a barrister; you are not a barrister when you have a degree from the university. Only the other day I received a letter from the professor of law at the university with which I was associated for 25 years, the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and he asked me to intervene in this matter, pointing out that he had himself only a year ago had a student who took first-class honours in law. If he wanted to become a barrister he had to spend another year, and that year had to be paid for by his family, who were working-class and could not afford it, or by himself, and he was earning no money and could not earn money while he was working for his qualification. It is ridiculous to pretend that this is just something which people can somehow find out of their pockets and hand over. That just is not true.

If the amendment is not accepted, we shall be denying to those people who do not have the money—this may not be important to some people and although the noble Baroness, Lady Young, shakes her head in dissent, I repeat it the right to become a barrister. It means, in other words—and I am sure my noble friend Lord Shinwell would be the last to approve of this—that the people who can afford to become barristers, people with rich families, are those who can go on and take this final year. That is surely against every principle we have upheld in this country until the present Government came to office. It is the principle we have supported over the years, the principle that it is the right of everyone to acquire these qualifications. I do not want to see a legal profession staffed entirely by people who are so well-heeled that they are able to afford it. I want to see in the profession those who can qualify, and unless the amendment is agreed to we shall be denying this right to those who have no money.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, perhaps I might correct two mis-statements of fact. The history of this matter is that no Government have as yet agreed a mandatory award for these particular courses. All Governments have made it possible for local education authorities to give discretionary awards. So there can be no question of a clear cut-off between those who can afford to pay and those who cannot; discretionary awards are available.


With financial cuts, my Lords.


My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I would only say to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that all I am anxious to ensure, and all the legal profession wants to ensure is that anyone who wishes to enter the profession and has the necessary talent is not debarred from doing so by the lack of appropriate support from a local education authority.

Having said that, I do not propose to divide the House on this amendment. This does not seem to me to be a matter which it would be appropriate to settle by trooping through the Division Lobbies. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for a not unsympathetic reply to the debate. I am sure that she and her colleagues will reflect upon what has been said, and that in due course, when the time is appropriate, steps will be taken to meet the difficulty which the amendment tried to deal with. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.31 p.m.

Lord EVANS of CLAUGHTON moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 43, line 3, at end insert— ("Provided always that nothing in this section shall prevent a local education authority bestowing awards for secondary education on persons over the age of eighteen years.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment was not moved at the Committee stage of the Bill, partly because of the lateness of the hour, and partly because of my feeling that I could not do justice to the moving of it and that your Lordships might not have been able to do justice in listening to what it provides and deciding upon it. I move the amendment as an amendment to Schedule 5 because this schedule deals with people over school age seeking grants. The schedule, and certainly the Bill in total, excludes from its consideration for the enjoyment of discretionary grants in appropriate places a very important group of people in the education system of this country, or rather people who have escaped from, or fallen out of, the education system.

I wish to assure your Lordships that this is not an argument for paying grants to sixth formers, which was dealt with in a previous amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady David, though of course we supported that case. This is quite a separate matter. The aim is to empower local education authorities to make grants at their discretion to people over 18 years of age who, for whatever reason, left full-time education without attaining 0-levels or, as appropriate, A-levels and to enable them after the age of 18 to return to full-time education in order to qualify them for further education later in their lives.

I think that your Lordships will be well aware that in inner urban areas in particular many children leave school without any qualifications at ordinary or advance level, or indeed without qualifications of any kind. This is not because they are not bright enough to attain them, but rather because they are bored with school and see their contemporaries out of school, in employment—or certainly with money in their pockets. Alternatively, they may enter a business which seems promising at the time, but which turns out to offer no future; or, most likely of all, they do not have qualifications because they came from a family which lacked parental support or enthusiasm for pushing them on. More often than not such people come from under-privileged homes where not only is there no parental support for the concept of education after the compulsory age level of 16, but there is actual hostility in the family—and quite often I encounter this hostility in the part of the world in which I live—towards children remaining at school a minute beyond the compulsory period.

Because they are intelligent, because they want to get on, because they want to further their education and improve themselves in some way, these people may wish later in life to enter a full-time course of secondary education, at either ordinary or advance level; and at that time they most probably will be out of employment. It would be a tragedy if they were to be excluded from possibly obtaining a discretionary grant to further their educational career. I consider that they are a very deserving group of people, many of whom in the earlier part of their lives have suffered and now want to recover from the disadvantages. They may have suffered those disadvantages through no fault of their own, or perhaps there was a lack of knowledge earlier; but in any case they now want to im[...] themselves and to become more use[...] ore skilled members of the community.

One of the major problems in many of the urban areas of this country is the very low number of skilled people as against the very high proportion of unskilled people, and I believe that for people of this kind aged over 18 grants should be available to enable them to pursue secondary education courses. As drawn at present the schedule prevents discretionary grants being made for that purpose. My Lords, I beg to move.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I well understand both the point that the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, makes and his concern that young people over the age of 18 who remain in full-time education at school continue to be regarded as dependent upon their families, whereas those who have left school, either to enter employment or to continue their full-time education at a college of further education, may be eligible for benefits in their own right. I am also aware that some more mature people may return to school and that these, too, may not be given grants, except to prevent or relieve hardship, and then only if their parents' means are taken into account.

The effect of the amendment would be to empower local education authorities to make awards at their discretion, but without any statutory constraint, to young people of 18 years of age who were continuing in, or resuming, full-time education at school. Its widest application would be to those reaching 18 during their last year in school, and in that context it touches on the underlying philosophy concerning the independence of young people of different ages from their families. I am sure that for this reason many people would be sympathetic towards the amendment. Nevertheless, the very fact that it would create in this particular way distinctions among those in their last year at school raises difficulties. Young people in the upper sixth form at school would be divided between those who were eligible for assistance in their own right and those whose parents were deemed still to be responsible for them, and, as I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate, this could lead to difficulties within the school.

Authorities already have power to pay educational maintenance allowances to the parents of young people in full-time education. These are paid at local education authorities' discretion and must have regard to parental means. I realise that the level of assistance paid under educational maintenance allowances can vary very considerably between different areas of the country and that this is not entirely satisfactory. However, the proposed amendment would not ease this difficulty; indeed it could exacerbate it. So far as the comparison between young people in school and those pursuing their courses in further education establishments is concerned, the local authority associations advise their members to treat them alike so far as possible. The proposed amendment would not therefore offer any particular benefit in that context. If the practice of returning to school at a more mature age becomes more widespread—and I acknowledge that this may have attractions at a time when falling rolls open up some spare capacity in schools—then we may need to reconsider the arrangements for providing financial support. But for the moment I do not think this is necessary; nor would we wish to take precipitate action which might not, in the light of experience, represent the best approach to the problem. Perhaps I should add that anyone returning to full-time education in a further education college or technical college, where he can do "o" and "A" levels, can obtain discretionary awards under existing powers. So that meets part of the problem.

While I accept that there may be scope for rationalising the range of benefits available to young people continuing in full-time education beyond school-leaving age—and this indeed is something which we as a Government very much have in mind—I do not think it would be right for me this evening to accept the amendment, which would leave unresolved a great many of the problems which I think we all recognise. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Claughton, will accept this explanation and will withdraw his amendment.


My Lords, my purpose in putting down the amendment was to open a door to enable your Lordships to realise that there is this lacuna or gap facing people who have left school and who want to return to secondary education. The reply of the noble Baroness was very helpful and most sympathetic. I see that the door is open, that the Government are aware of the problem and are considering it. The problem applies in particular to a group of people who are suffering in today's society—people who, through no fault of their own, have missed the opportunities of secondary education. I understand that the Government appreciate the problem and are sympathetic towards it, and I hope they will continue to explore it. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.40 p.m.

Viscount SIMON moved Amendment No. 52:

Page 43, line 29, at end insert— ("(d) to bestow awards on persons taking courses provided by the Open University;")

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, it is only a matter of chance that your Lordships are listening to the third of three Liberal amendments in succession, with a fourth to follow. It just happens that that is how they have fallen. This amendment takes us into a rather different field. Up to now, in dealing with recent amendments, we have been talking about local education authority grants, but we now turn over to grants from the Secretary of State under paragraph 3 of Schedule 5. The Open University is in a rather peculiar position, and it does not fit neatly into any plan. I think noble Lords on all sides of the House will agree that the Open University was a bold and imaginative innovation, and that it has been outstandingly successful. But, of course, the essence of it is that it works only for part-time students, and the general set-up of the arrangements for grants does not cover part-time students. The students of the Open University, and the association which represents them, have for a long time been campaigning to get this difference recognised and for special arrangements to be made for Open University students to get grants. There are discretionary grants from local authorities, but they, like other discretionary grants from local authorities, are offered in a rather haphazard way. Some authorities help; others do not help.

My noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley and I have had conversations with representatives of the Open University Students' Association, and we have learned that there are many hard cases where people could pursue valuable courses—valuable to themselves and, I believe, valuable to the community, because they are increasing the breadth of their knowledge and experience in the world—but where they are prevented from doing so because they cannot get a grant. So, after discussion, my noble friend and I thought that the best thing to do was to add to the third paragraph of Schedule 5, where the awards are made by the Secretary of State. These are all discretionary awards, so they do not in fact involve the Government in any expenditure immediately. Indeed, there is a further hurdle to be got over, because the paragraph begins: Provision may be made by regulations under this Act for authorising the Secretary of State—", et cetera. So, even if the Government and the House accept this amendment, there is no immediate position in which the Secretary of State is required to make grants. In fact, he is never going to be required to make grants, but he cannot make them until he has first made the regulations which enable them to be made.

I believe there is a real case here for doing something for the Open University students. It may be that this is not the right way to do it, and certainly from what the Government have been saying recently they are not going to be very favourably disposed to accepting this amendment; but if they feel that there is a real case to be met here, I hope they will be able to think of some way to do it. Before I move the amendment and leave it, may I be allowed to make one other comment? If your Lordships have before you the third paragraph of this Schedule, on page 43. your Lordships will see that at line 19 there is a reference to courses" comparable to post-graduate courses". I think it is important in all legislation that we should try to use the English language correctly, and that it is especially important in an education Bill. I would ask the noble Baroness whether, indeed, the proper preposition to use after "comparable" is not "with" rather than "to". We compare one course with another, and I should have thought it should be courses "comparable with post-graduate courses". I may say that the same error (as it is in my view) appears in five or six places in this Schedule. If the noble Baroness comes to the conclusion that I am right, a few amendments could be put down on Third Reading which I am sure will go through without any discussion. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I welcome this amendment, particularly now that both sides of the House pretty well accept the existence of the Open University as a fact, and not as an experiment. This may he an appropriate place, in passing, and if I am not ruled out of order, to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lady Jennie Lee who was so persistent during her period of office in her determination to create the Open University. I have looked through this Bill, and, having been a tutor in adult education for some 17 years, I would have wished that I could have seen a little more in the form of help for adult students. Here is one place where it can be given, and where the Secretary of State himself can take action irrespective of whether or not the local authorities are sympathetic. Going back to the days of the dear old Master of Baliol and Professor Tawney, I think the magnificent work they did in the field of adult education came to an apex, in a way, in the setting up of the Open University.

I do not want to delay the House, but I wanted to make that point. I sincerely hope that the House will take this amendment seriously, and that we shall have a sympathetic reply on it in regard to the Open University, as well as some clue as to the attitude of the Government to the massive work done in adult education that is non-vocational, to which tribute has been paid by many Members on both sides of the House at different times.


My Lords, having been Chancellor of the Open University for five years and also a student, I should like to support the amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. These discretionary grants by local authorities have really not proved to be satisfactory. May I take two students, one a teacher and the other an ordinary housewife. I can fairly take them because our biggest group of students are teachers and our second biggest group are ordinary housewives. So far as the teacher is concerned, he is the only student who stands to gain financially by getting a degree from the Open University. He is normally a teacher who, apart from his teacher's training certificate, has not got a university degree himself; but if he gets a degree then this will qualify him for additional remuneration. So he stands to gain by it.

The housewife, of course, may well be in difficulties in being able to pursue her studies through lack of means to pay the fees. What happens in practice is that there are many local authorities who give grants to teachers because they are their own teachers, and who therefore support them financially although, of course, a man who is a teacher and in paid employment can probably well afford to pay the fees himself. But, then, they do not give anything to the housewife. This is very unsatisfactory, and not how the thing ought to work; and it is hardly fair on anybody except the teachers. They have all through been in this rather privileged position that, earning a good income, they can afford to pay the fees, but they have them paid for them by their own local authority; whereas the people who ought to get the grants—the second largest group, the housewives—do not. I therefore very much hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to this amendment.


; My Lords, I think it is perhaps fitting that someone from this side of the House should say something on this amendment. I believe the Open University is a brilliant British innovation which has led the whole world in many ways, and which is very much envied and admired by some other countries. On those grounds, I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench, and the Government generally, will look on this amendment more favourably and give it greater consideration than other special cases. The second point is that students of the Open University, being by their nature solitary people, require tremendous motivation to proceed with their studies right through to the end. Therefore, there could still be scope for regulations making money or grants available after students have shown determination for six months or a year to prove themselves.


My Lords, as a current member of the council of the Open University and having only this morning attended their meeting in London, I would wish to support this amendment and add a few words. The council itself and the whole structure of the Open University are conscious of the need to conduct their own affairs according to the stringent financial conditions of our time. They are treating this very soberly and making their own internal adjustments. There will be pressure on recruitment, on student courses and on graduates within the university. I support the amendment because it is essential that the spirit of the Open University should be kept up.

6.51 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I have listened with interest to noble Lords who have spoken and I should like to say that I, too, am a supporter of the Open University and recognise the great and important work that it is doing. I recognise immediately the same kind of difficulties that we have had over the amendments that we were debating earlier on. For the Open University, students may receive relief from their employers or they may receive discretionary awards from local education authorities, but, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, pointed out, there are many people who do not receive awards at all—and this is the point that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was making—and for them the position is difficult; because discretionary, locally-administered awards have their drawbacks particularly if they result in inconsistencies between one authority and another. It is also a cause for concern if support from local education authorities proves unreliable because, for example, a local education authority feels unable to guarantee support for the full length of a course which, for the Open University can be six years or eight years. It is true that some local authorities now feel it necessary to curtail and even sometimes to withdraw support from Open University students and that the extent of their support is diminished.

The noble Lords who proposed this measure have suggested one which, in effect, would transfer to the Secretary of State the local authorities' responsibilities to support these students. No doubt, a scheme operated by central Government would be more consistent but there is no guarantee at all that it would be more generous than the present local authority arrangements. Indeed, at the present time we could not contemplate a generous and all-embracing scheme. Nevertheless, if power to support Open University students were to be vested in the Secretary of State, the local authorities would almost certainly consider themselves relieved of their responsibilities and would quickly withdraw their existing support.

Turning to the cost—because I have no doubt that many would like to see a scheme under which awards could automatically be given to Open University students—we believe that for Open University students (who would be part-time) the cost would be up to £5 million but if other part-time students were to be included it would cost more than that. This is something which at the present moment we do not feel we can justify.

I should also say that the amendment proposed would represent a substantial departure from the long-standing division of responsibility between central and local government. At present, the duty or power to bestow awards rests primarily with the local authorities. The Secretary of State has only limited powers to pay grants and to bestow awards and these are exercised only in respect of certain post-graduate students and those on full-time courses at the long-term, adult, residential colleges. We would not lightly depart from the accepted division of responsibilities in this case. It would present two severe practical problems: first, the problem of size. Open University students number some 60,000 and other part-time students on advanced-level courses could bring the numbers to be supported by central Government schemes to over 140,000. A centrally-administered scheme could therefore become very unwieldy. Secondly, there is a great variety of needs and circumstances.

I am sure that all of us have sympathy with the intentions behind this amendment. Nobody is going to argue against the value of the Open University or the advantages which it has for many people to get qualifications that they have been unable to get before or who wish to retrain to get further qualification; but it would not be right for me to accept an amendment which would commit the Government in some way to this further money. The pressures to introduce such mandatory awards would be very great and we could not contemplate this at the moment.

I would say to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, because he raised a separate point about the grammar in the clause, that I have had advice on this and I understand that Schedule 5 merely repeats the language used by Parliament in 1962 when the Education Act of that year was passed. He might like to see what conclusions he draws from that statement and perhaps at another stage we could debate the relevant merits of either "with" or "to" in the circumstances. On the important issue, of the principle of his amendment, I hope that he will accept my explanation and withdraw the amendment.


My Lords, may I say that the conclusion I would draw about the language of 1962 and of 1980, is that the Conservative Government have learnt nothing in 18 years?

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I think he might say that if it was right in the first place, it is right now.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I wish that she had found it possible to suggest some way in which these students could be helped. Perhaps in the course of time she may turn over this in her mind and discuss it with the department to see what could be done for them. They are in considerable difficulty. I was obliged to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, with his special experience, who, in the examples he gave, explained how difficult it is to get this right. In the hope that something will be done, and as we have had the opportunity of airing this, I shall in a few minutes' time seek to withdraw the amendment.

I want to say on the subject of "with" and "to" that I have consulted my noble friend Lord Airedale, who usually advises me and my noble friends on the use of the English language. He immediately quoted Shakespeare at me and he referred to somebody who was "compared to"—

A noble Lord: A summer's day.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, everybody knows it except me. All I can say is that I do not know that Acts of Parliament ought to be drafted in Shakespearian language. The fact that this is taken from the 1962 Act I can understand. I came across a similar case once before when I found something which was completely wrong and was told it was only a repetition of what had been done before. I still leave the thought with the noble Baroness that we might strike a new note and try to write contemporary English in our Acts of Parliament. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.